Also, I picked Run the Banner Down by Shearwater as the music to accompany the piece, not because it inspired what I wrote, but because I thought it best fit the mood I was attempting to create. That mood being one of slight withdrawal from the scenario: as though looking at everything closely yet from a distance; from the perspective of Cage but also from that of children sitting around a fire before bedtime as their grandpa retold the daring tales of the Revolution that happened many hundreds of years prior. Perhaps I achieved this, although I don't quite feel it. Still...it's a scenario that intrigued me.
Cage stumbled up the last few steps, gripping the torch firmly. He pressed the palm of his free hand against his side and pulled it away, grimacing at the sight of fresh blood. His shirt, once freshly ironed and starched now hung in tatters about his boney frame. The cool, swift sensation of stone under his bare feet became a reality once more as his mind cleared from the haze that had threatened to pull him into a sea of oblivion.
He squinted his eyes as he looked up at the wildly flapping flag that danced beside the tall watchtower, wreathed in smoke plumes that ascended from the city burning below.
Just a thousand more steps.
Cage licked the salt away from his lips, which were cracked and bruised. He steadied himself against the wall, letting his hand slide against the cool stone, leaving behind a streak of blood. Then he stepped forward. One foot in front of the other – living life as each second was given to him from the Creator above.
Glancing left, then right, he entered the passageway that wound around the citadel wall. No one was in sight. As quietly as was possible, Cage turned right. The only sound that reached his ears was that of his own heavy breathing and the stealthy pattering of his feet.
A wooden door, scorched black by flames, appeared within the circle of torchlight. The golden bolts shone vibrantly, as though daring the boy to halt and muse but a moment.
Cage blinked and pulled the door open. Despite the damage wrought by flame, it stood sturdy. He edged around the door, holding the torch in front of him.
Swiftly, he pulled back, stifling a gasp. Before him a Watch Guard stared to the left, unblinking. Cage swallowed back bile as he realized the guard had been pinned to the stone behind him with several spears.
His eyes travelled down his fellow countryman’s uniform, only to snap up before he saw past the warrior’s waist. Cage swiftly passed by and made his way up the first turn of stairs. What the fire at the door had done to that poor man’s lower body was unspeakable.
Dry-heaving, he paused a moment to gather his breath before continuing on, one step at a time. Just 984 left to go. He forced himself to think of the sweet smell of honeysuckle that permeated his grandma’s house during the spring, but all that filled his nostrils was the scent of death that seemed to drip from the walls.
The journey up the stairs is another story for another time. Cage passed many dead men, some of whom he knew and silently mourned. Several times, he tripped and fell, bruising his already battered bones, but he kept on. For his king. For his country.
After what seemed eternity, he reached the top of the watchtower. A wooden ladder, untouched by flame, stretched up through the ceiling. Cage grasped the sides firmly, careful to keep the torch away from the burnished wood, then he climbed.
If any beast of the air were to observe the tower at this time, they would have seen a tiny head pop out the top into the cold night air, followed by two small hands, one brandishing a torch that flickered in the darkness. But there were none to observe tonight. It was simply Cage. Not even a cricket witnessed the events that followed, yet somehow, everyone knows the tale.
Cage shuffled towards the center of the stone roof, where stood a tall and mighty warning beacon. He exhaled softly and gazed at the fire that danced upon the edge of his torch. A dark shadow passed over his face but a moment before he shoved the torch into the center of the beacon. A moment of hesitation passed and then, with a powerful whoosh, it caught fire. The flames ran swiftly up to the top, encompassing the beacon with angry yellow light. Cage removed the torch and backed away. He climbed down the ladder, then pulled it down after him and set it against the stone wall of the tower.
The boy trembled, holding the small torch in his hand. Sweat glistened on his emaciated face. He had summoned help and if God answered his prayers, help would come. For now, all that was in his power to do was to hide and hope to escape the citadel with as many survivors as possible, if any were left. If not, he would fight till his last breath, defending his people and country, knowing deep in his heart that if the Creator were gracious, help would come…someday.
Signed with smoke,
Signed with smoke,