The Crack In The Wall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
I am brand new here, I am 16 and I mostly post short stories, anyway enough blabbering and I hope you enjoy.

Submitted: July 31, 2017

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Submitted: July 31, 2017



'You smoke?' asked the veteran. There was the click of flint and tinder, and the faintest of lights could be seen through the deep crack in the wall.

'No.' Came the voice of the young man, aristocratic judgment weakly masking anxiety in his voice.

'Would ye like to?' Asked the veteran.

There was a long pause, and then an answer too faint to be heard through the thick stonework. 'What?' Said the veteran, his harsh and raspy voice startling a pack of crows from their twilight feast of carrion.

'I don't know how! And keep it down, unless you want boiling oil poured on you.' Threatened the young man.

'Yer out of oil.' 'What?' 'Yer out of oil. Ran out bout two days past. That's why ye tipped yer nightly muck onto Ser Jerome this morning.' The veteran was grinning at the image of the proud knight coated in filth, loudly demanding that the infantry fetch a rag and clean him. Although the young man could not see the veteran, he could hear the laughter in the voice of the soldier.

'Yer out of crossbow bolts too, if'n i'm not mistaken.' Continued the veteran.

'How in the hell do you know that, devil?' said the young man. 'If that's true, why hasn't your lord ordered you up the walls again? You're bluffing.'

'Coz the lord don't know.' said the veteran, simply.

' haven't told him?' The noble was incredulous.

'Why would I? Gettin' paid for sittin', I am. Talkin' to a king, I am. Good month for me.' 'How do you know I'm a king?' Asked the king, his voice melancholy.

'Weeeerlll...' Said the veteran, stretching out, 'Yer young. Ye're in the walled garden past night, which means you're either a guard, or ye've got clout. Don't sound like no guard i've ever spoken ter, ye'd get bored two hours on watch and get yer throat cut. So you's probably the young princeling I saw five years ago in Galmont. As for the matter of your kinglyness, I saw yer da catch an arrow to the neck durin' the fightin' on the walls three days back. Not the kind of wound men get back up from. I'd know.' And then he gave a self-satisfied grunt, pleased at this little act of deduction.

'My father was the king of all Artosia. You will refer to him as His Majesty.' The king's voice was icy.

'Nuffin' majestic about bleeding out in an icebox fort six miles north of nowhere, kid.' Said the veteran. 'How dare -' interjected the young king, but the veteran plowed on, 'But!...he was a good king. Not a smart king, but a good king. If you get out of this, do yer kinging from the throne room. Battlements is no place for blue blood.'

There was another long silence.

'Well, time for me to get back. Sun's risin', wouldn't eat an arrow fer breakfast, and I look like one of yer lads, sittin on this wall.'

'You will tell me how you got up there.' Ordered the young king.

'I climbed, Your Majesty.' said the veteran, and then there was the sound of scuffling boots as he deftly worked his way back down the outer wall of the walled garden. The young king could not help but marvel at the agility of what was surely a much older man; The lower wall of the garden was some fifteen feet up, and the crack they were conversing through must have been another five feet off solid ground. Shaking his head, the king returned to his castle.

'Fancy a smoke?' asked the veteran.

'I'll decline, thanks.' Said the young king. He sounded haggard.

'How about a bite ta eat?' Offered the veteran. There was no response.

'Alright, alright. I'm just gonna leave a bit of beef jerky in this here cubby hole while I do my duty and watch for escapees, and if any young royals were to steal army supplies, well, that'd prac-tic-ly be a act of nighttime sabotage. Downright heroic, it'd be.' He said, as he placed his nightly rations in the crack. After a few seconds, there was the sound of scraping rocks as a skinny arm retrieved them.

The veteran listened to the young king eat. The royal clearly tried to maintain some decorum at first, but it wasn't long before he gave in and savagely tore into the jerky. 'By my judgement, knowin' what I know of yer stores, you shouldn't be so hungry, young king.' He said. There was another silence.

'You won't tell?' Said the young king, eventually.

'Din't tell bout the crossbow bolts, did I, now? Got you a whole week there to set up that nice trap with the catapult. That was a good one, you should've seen the lord's face!' Exclaimed the veteran.

The king sighed, loud enough for the veteran to hear through the thick stonework. 'One of the grain stores went bad. Maggots.' He sounded defeated.

The veteran thought for a while. 'Still, ye should be eating fine, Your Majesty.'

'I...I've been giving my food to the soldiers. They're already so weak...' In the silence that followed, the king heard a faint sniff.

The cockerel's crow came an hour later, as they both sat there in silence. 'You had best be off then, soldier.' Said the king with a grim chuckle, 'You wouldn't want to catch an arrow in the neck.'

Despite it all, the black cynicism of the remark surprised the veteran. 'How old are ye, kingling?' He asked.

'Seventeen.' Was the curt response.

The veteran pushed off the wall and climbed his way down via now-familiar handholds. 'Same age as my lad.' He whispered as he hit the cobblestones.

'Looks like we'll get through tomorrow, Your Majesty.' Said the veteran.

'Aye, that it does, soldier.' Said the king.

'Still, ye got Jerome. And the lord's gonna to have trouble ruling Artosia with half a face.' He paused. 'Good shot, that. Who did it?'

'Me, actually.' Responded the king.

'Get out. You?' The veteran was genuinely incredulous.

'I used to go longbow hunting with my father in the Kingswood. And with things the way they are in here, everyone needs to help.'

'Bet that looked proper heroic. Heard the cheerin' from camp!' Said the veteran. 'It was a lucky shot.' Responded the king.

They lapsed into silence again, the moon high overhead.

'Soldier?' Asked the king.

'Yes, Your Majesty?'

'I'll take that smoke now.'

The veteran was yet again perched on his wall. For the first time in the two months of the siege, he was basking in the rays of the sun, bright and warm. A voice called up to him from the street.

'Spider!' Yelled the lord, his once rich voice now a throaty gurgle from the arrow wound. 'Aye, mi'lord?' Responded the veteran, releasing a handhold to tip an imaginary hat in deference to his liege.

'Any signs of the pretender? Any escapees try to jump from the wall?' Said the lord. 'Nay, mi'lord. Haven't seen a soul.' Said the veteran, and enjoyed the sight of his usurping lord stamping his foot like a petulant child and storming off.

'I definitely wouldn't see a soul who climbed out of this crack and ran off to the north gate in, say, fifteen minutes.' Said the veteran, apparently to thin air. Then he reached into the crack and retrieved his pipe and his climbing chisel, now worn to the hilt, climbed down using the expanded handholds, and sauntered off to find somewhere quiet to have a smoke

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