Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SNOOZE (07/20/17)
TITLE: Slumbering Eyes
By Yvonne Blake
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He belched, and the taste of spiced lamb reminded him of the meal for the soldiers before they went out to their various duties. Sarsha had served his table, and he was quite sure she gave him an extra helping of everything. She always left a fragrance of summer flowers when she walked past him. He knew it was because she preferred working in the gardens – gathering vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Often her windblown hair had a leaf caught in its braid.
An owl hooted nearby. Gavin stood up and strolled to the corner of the wall and back. Although the inner court was illuminated with dozens of torches, only the moon and stars lit the area outside the gate. Gavin scanned the edge of the woods. Knowing every boulder and hillock, he also knew that wayward cow could look like another large rock – until it moved. With the crickets chirping their accompaniment to the fireflies dancing in the tall grass, Gavin yawned and leaned against the warm stones again.
Gavin and the other guards were not only protecting the passage of the refugees and their rescuers, for Jerom, the prophet, had announced that the time had come for a visit from King Mesas. No one knew exactly when he would arrive, but Jerom explained that all the signs were in place. It could be at any time. The morning star and the red star were both in the eastern sky during the darkening of the full moon. Gavin remembered it. He had been on duty that night, too.
On that night, all the shadows had grown larger and darker. The moon and even the night air seemed to turn a reddish tone, giving a feeling of being dipped in blood. The night-birds and insects had become silent. The horses in the stables whickered and stamped nervously. Gavin had been relieved for the moon’s reappearance in its full light, allowing the world to stop holding its breath while it was gone.
The moon was dark tonight, but only because it had completed its cycle and was beginning again. The tiny crescent lay like a silvery thread in a velvet, star-glittered tapestry. Scents of clover and jasmine fields floated along the river and over the hills, reminding Gavin of his home. If he closed his eyes, he could almost hear the swish of waves on the shore and smell the salt of the sea.
“Hey!” A jab in his ribs startled him. “Wake up!” It was Terone, the guard of the northern wall.
Gavin jumped up. “I wasn’t sleeping – just resting my eyes.”
“And I suppose you heard the pebbles I tossed your direction and crunch of my footsteps as I approached.”
Gavin clenched his jaw and turned his face. “So what? There’s nothing going on tonight. Everything and everyone are sleeping, except us.”
“You don’t know that.” Terone pivoted and marched away. “I don’t have time to guard my gate and baby tend you, too.”
Gavin gritted his teeth, knowing Terone was right, but it hurt to have him be so bossy about it. Gavin walked to the opposite corner and looked along the tree line again. One of the shadowy rocks seemed to move. Was it the enemy or an animal or perhaps only the breeze playing with the leaves? Gavin watched it for a few minutes, but the shadow didn’t move again. With a shrug, he turned and paced back to the gate.
He tried to stay alert. He tried to keep his eyes open, but the buzzing crickets, the jasmine breeze, and the warm stones pulled him into their slumbering spell.
He stumbled to attention in the glare of a circle of torches. A man in red robes upon an ivory white horse towered above him. “King Mesas!” Bowing to the dirt, Gavin felt his eyes close tightly against the burning tears of shame.
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