Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Citadel: Death on the Ladder

The moat was choked with corpses, the centuries-old lizards crushed beneath the weight of armored men. The advancing troops marched over the backs of the fallen, scaling the wall with ladders and grapnels. Boiling pitch rained down from the machicolations of the battlement, and the sweet smell of roasting flesh hung around the battlefield.

It was this last absurdity which ruined the attack. Matthew, numb with fatigue, clung to the ladder, wondering where the wonderful scent came from. My God, he thought, I've only had cabbage and bread for two weeks now. He glanced from side to side, not noticing the archer leaning over the parapet above. The arrow entered just above his collarbone and was buried to the fletching, piercing the lung, which instantly filled with blood. Matthew tried to look up, but could only raise his eyes to the level of his hands, which were growing slack on the ladder rung. They seemed somehow grey and alien, as if they were someone else's hands.

I should hold on, he thought, and fell.

--Steve Kilian

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