It awakened long-distant memories. It reminded him of work, of long Sundays, of croissants, of Paris. His mouth watered in automatic response to the rich aroma and he licked his cracked lips in anticipation – an old habit.
He sat up, catching his breath as shards of pain arrowed across his chest. He lifted his shirt and in the one shaft of light piercing the darkness from a hole in the roof, he could see a large shadow hovering over his ribs – a bruise. He touched its dark centre, lifted his fingers to his mouth, tasted blood and felt grit on the end of his tongue. Recoiling, he spat, trying to clear his mouth of the metallic tang.
The coffee. He groped in the gloom, following his sense of smell. His fingers found a plastic cup. He grasped it in both hands, inhaling the glorious, comforting smell before swallowing, desperate to lubricate his dry mouth and throat. It was proper coffee, not instant. Someone had good taste, and time to spare to brew it. Continue reading “The Captives”
Mark sat on the metal seat, aware of every beat of his heart, his too rapid breathing.
The sickly sense of doubt rose up like a flood again as he pushed his hands deep into his coat pockets. He squirmed on the hard metal seat, empty stomach rebelling against stewed coffee long since turned cold in its flimsy paper cup, now forgotten on the floor by his feet.
He checked his watch again, willing the minute hand to sweep faster – or was it slower? Whatever happened next, whatever he decided to do, his life was going to change.
Mark looked up, staring at the people milling about, wondering if anyone noticed him, pale, cold, and tense. He felt so – obvious. The last few months had been a whirlwind, pleasure entangled with guilt, day following day. The intoxicating extremes had become an addiction. Continue reading “Man of Smoke”
Lancelot sighed deeply, watching his horse stamping its hooves and tossing its head, eager to be on the move. This was so unnecessary, so expensive. His gaze widened, taking in his men, his good, faithful men readying themselves for battle. Again.
“Roderick, help me up why don’t you? We need to get this over and done with,” he said, nodding at the wooden mounting steps. He held out a gloved hand to his manservant, who was strong and also faithful, but not short on opinions. “And don’t say a word. I know.”
Roderick braced his outstretched arm under the king’s weight, now almost doubled by the burden of head-to-toe chain-mail. He grunted as he launched Lancelot onto the horse, which whickered softly in protest as its rider landed with a thud on the saddle.
“Your brother, Sire… he has even less sense than I thought, and that’s not saying much. Our Queen Mirabelle is not impressed by all of this posturing, and neither is Queen Ariadne!”
“Enough, Roderick. This time, you don’t get the last word. Any more of your grumbling and you can leave my employ – right now!” Continue reading “Strategem”