A TALL, TWIG-LIFE FIGURE of a man paced around the walkway of the turret he was stationed on. He gritted his teeth as the bitter chill of the storm’s wind whipped its way around the tower. A hot fire was all he could think of and a bowl of hot soup. He needed a break from the mindlessness of the Watch, of waiting impatiently for the shift to end. How many hours had it been? His Watch ended at two in the morning.
The man cursed at the idea of how much time he was away from her, how long she had to wait for the stupid bell to sound that meant he was free to come to her side. There was no choice, he had to watch, even if there was nothing to see coming, nothing hiding in the darkness far below, waiting for a single moment of inattentiveness, a moment of failure, to strike its enemy. After all, if he stepped away from his post without order, even for a moment, he would be arrested and sentenced to the dungeons for treason. Treason. For needing to take…a bathroom break.
He sat on his hard, wooden stool and stared out into the darkness. As sleep tempted him, he thought about home, the temporary home, at least, that held his family far below in the massive tree. His oldest, she would be asleep, exhausted from a hard day of school, breathing deeply, resting peacefully. His second would probably be reading or writing late into the night, to be found with a small pen in her small hand and a mess of papers covered in poetry and stories strewn about her. His wife…dang, what was the time? He had to see her soon; he couldn’t stand it. What would the cost be worth, the dungeons, how much would he be willing to go through that? Please, he pleaded into the wintry night lashing through him like spears in the heat of battle, let me go, I beg of you! What treason is there in wanting to witness the birth of my third child?
A sudden noise of the door opening bolted him upright. He felt his joints pop as the shadowed figure in the door held onto his hat and turned to see him in the dimness.
“You have permission to leave early.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jolson O’Meern saluted his superior and dashed down the stairs as fast as his frozen, stiff legs could carry him.
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