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An Ignoble End PDF Print
Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Winner of the Silver for the 2011 Anniversary Literature Competition  

The night draws ever on. The longest night of my meagre, yet suddenly curtailed life. I know that i will not survive to see the coming of the dawn, that priviliege has been forever denied to me. It is only now, armed with the certainty of my own demise, that i am able to see those very rare occasions when i was awake to see dawn as a priviliege. That simple opportunity that i failed to excercise and appreciate before, has suddenly become my single greatest regret, my deepest want and most fervent wish.


I close my eyes, the only thing i am still able to do, and imagine a vast and endless horizon. Before me is an ocean of fine, cream coloured sand that the winds and rains have conspired together to sculpt into an ever shifting sea of capriciously peaked dunes and faltering hollows. I can hear the roaring, rythmic swells of powerful waves as they crash upon an unseen shore. Trembling with anticipation, i hastily climb the tenuous slope of the greatest of the dunes in a desperate rush to the summit. I scramble for an age to gain the purchase i need to clear the peak, before coughing out a strangled cry as i gaze upon the full and magnificent sight of my success.

A sun, larger, greater and more golden than any other i have ever beheld bears down upon a sparkling ocean of glittering light that casts it's flashing waves upon a perfect seashore. Nothing marrs what my eyes behold, no seaweed or aquatic debris litter the wet, rippled sands. No rocks or reefs dare to obstruct the glinting tableau of the ocean, and no clouds in the bluest sky to obscure the brilliance of this brightest sun. I fall to my knees, i cannot breathe, i cannot laugh, cry or scream. I can only stare at the radiant disc of the sun as it shines down upon me, consumes me, and fills me with a single certainty, i am there. I am there, and all i can see is light. I am blinded by it and compelled to stare at it's burning hot whiteness until my very soul is seared.

The rain begins to fall once more and the paradise my mind has constructed is shattered into a myriad of jagged shards. My eyes snap open at the sudden shock of the rains chilling kiss and struggle to find focus there in the lingering darkness of the alleyway. It is an alleyway much like a hundred others in Altdorf, made unique only by the events of this night. When i think of what has happened to me here in this miserable and forgotten place, and the things i have been forced to bear witness to, somehow, impossibly, my body trembles. Wether it is through fear, abject horror, or simply the rain soaked cobbles of the backstreet draining what little heat my body may still possess, i can never know. I tremble for a few moments longer, the involuntary movement passes and i am forced once more to gaze down the length of the narrow passageway.

The alleyway itself is blocked at the end by a crumbling wall of lichen encrusted brick, and it is against this that my back now rests. My prone position affords me the best possible position to observe the entirity of this miserable backstreet, a fact that is not missed by my horrified mind. The length of the passage is littered with mouldering crates and rotting pallets, each offering another shadow to further cloak the lane in an even more sinister cast. Rats, and all manner of other unwholesome creatures chitter and stalk within the it's dingy depths, and i am sure that some may even be feasting upon my unprotesting and unmoving flesh.

Above me the overhanging second storeys of the now abandoned dockside warehouses that create this narrow lane almost touch, and offer the tiniest sliver of the slowly lightening night sky to be seen. It is this meagre illumination that allows me to see the same sliver of dawnlight reflected in a pool of cooling and coagulating blood that is slowly being diluted by the incessant rain. The blood is not my own, and yet it is my purpose for being here and in the state that i find myself. For i was chosen this night, to bear witness.

My brooding thoughts are suddenly cut short as my ears discern the sound of distant footfalls growing ever more brisk and hurried. All at once i am filled with rising terror, my heart hammers inside my chest, my breath already shallow, quickens and my involutary trembling resumes. I know what is coming, for it has already been played out before me once this night. Perhaps it would have been my own fate, had i not been the first to have been taken. When first i was told of my fate, i felt myself in some strange way lucky, luckier than the one that followed me at least. The things that i have seen this night however, have since convinced me of that folly. And though with the coming of the rapidly approaching footsteps, my fate is most assuredly hastened and sealed. I actually welcome it.

They are but two shadows at first, each growing ever more distinct and definite as they draw nearer to my point of vantage. Their booted feet strike the cobbles in an ever increasing and desperate tempo, as they each seek to claim from the alleyway something intrinsically different. I know that the first seeks to claim my dead-end lane for the sanctauary and safety it could possibly provide, for that was my own reason for entering it. Whilst the second seeks to claim the backstreet for the inconspicuousness and anonymity such a mundane place affords someone who does not wish to be dicovered in his avocation. As i watch, they pass the threshhold of the alleyway and the scene is once more set, and ready to play out as it did before.

My eyes, so used to the gloom of my shadowy lair make out the persued man clearly as he dodges, weaves and clambers over the rotting vistiges of the discarded pallets and crates that obstruct his flight. He is a tall man, fit of frame, handsome of face and in his very prime of life. He is a man of means, judging by his fine silken doublet of charcoal grey and sunburst yellow. His trews are a match for the colours of the doublet, and even his calfskin boots, deepest black and polished to a mirror shine would cost half a years wages to a common man. Yet it is his face that belies his birthright more so than any such finery could, the aquiline nose and the oiled hair and beard mark him as the nobleman he must surely be. As was the last, and as am i.

He is less than twenty paces from me, his face is flushed and frightened, yet burning with the fire of hope. Suddenly, he can see the wall of brick against which i rest, he stops dead and I stare straight into his eyes as that burning hope is forever extinguished. Even before he has a chance to turn and confront his pursuer, something flashes silver in the half-light and the nobleman suddenly falls. He lands awkwardly with his right leg twisted under him at an unnatural angle, his face strikes the cobbles with a sickening crack, his cheekbone shatters, yet he will not have felt any of it. He lies lifeless like a rag doll in a state of apparent and complete paralysis, but there is still one part of his body in possession of volountary function, his eyes.

They are wide open, seized by terror and darting madly, like some wild animal caught in a steel trap. His eyes have not found me, he has no idea that i am there, a truly captive audience if ever there was such a thing. He cannot know what is about to befall him or what he will be forced to bear, but i do, and my mind is filled with the scream that i am unable to voice. From out of the darkness he begins to appear, he casually strides to the fallen noble and kneels beside him. With strangely gentle movements he carefully lies his victim flat on his stomach, freeing the trapped leg in the process. Slowly he trails his fingers up the prone nobles back, all the way to the nape of his neck. The long fingers of the persuer caress the long, steel needle that has pierced the flesh there, and presumably the spine beneath. He gives the needle a few cursory pulls and manipulations, forcing his victim to spasmodically jerk and twitch with each subtle movement. Finally, he is satisfied with his ministrations and stands up to evaluate and study the man at his feet.

He is dressed like a ruffian, this walking avatar of torment. His boots are nothing more than worn sailors jacks, his britches, naught but raw leather are patched and threadbare. A tight fitting jerkin of oiled leather encompasses his heavily muscled torso and a wide brimmed hat of stiff felt completes his ensemble. Standing taller again than the noble and far more powerfully built, the persuer contemplates what action to take. He lets the time drag on, savouring the power he holds over the other, relishing it, before finally coming to a decision.

From out of the pockets of his britches he produces a long leather pouch which he lays next to his victim. Next he removes what seems to be a tiny bolt of sail canvas, which he begins to unfold and lay out beside the noble. Returning to his leather pouch he selects a stilletto-like knife and neatly slices through the noblemans doublet, followed by his trews. He rolls the unmoving noble onto the spread out canvas and removes his clothes, undergarments, and boots, leaving the man naked and lying on the flat of his back. The victims eyes are full of horror as the persuer folds out his pouch of implements and tools. The torture is just about to begin anew when suddenly, the ruffian looks my way and offers me sick smile and a cruel nod.

The noble managed to outlast his predecessor, a fact that i am both horrified and oddly proud of. It makes me ponder how long i may have lasted under such punishment, and if knowing how long another had lived for would push me to try and best it. It is a sickening thought, one surely brought on by my mind suffering under the strain of this terrible experience. I am alone for now, and the dawn is not far from breaking. I know what my fate is to be, but it does not stop me from hoping that some early rising dock worker may pass by and find me. In the distance i hear a dull splash and i know that the ruffian has dumped the noblemans body into the river, just like the one before him, it leads me to believe that the river shall be my own final destination.

As i sit alone in the alleyway, i am struck by the thought that the only mark that will be left of this nights tradgedy is a single large pool of slowly drying blood, and i wonder if my own will soon be joining it. Even as i contemplate this morbid thought, i hear the now familiar footsteps approach. All semblance of fear has flown from me, i am strangely numb and exhausted by my ordeal and i am eager for my part to be over. An almost coy smile is on his face as he makes his way towards me. The smile broadens even more as he removes the much used bolt of canvas from his britches and begins to unfold and lay it before me. Walking over to my prone person, he reaches forth a hand and begins to caress and stroke my head and cheek. Before his hand suddenly darts behind me to seize the needle that was stuck in my own neck, and draws it free.

Nothing happens, i am still as immobile and as powerless as before. He laughs softly at the dissapointment in my eyes and begins to speak to me in a foreign, yet familiar accent. He tells me that i shoud feel honoured and privilieged to witness a true artist practise his craft. That i am a man who should be able to appreciate and understand his unique vision. He begins to describe some of the works he has commited in the past, lamenting the fact that he has not the time left to do the same to me. The vagabond stares deep into my eyes as if seeking some sort of acknowledgement or approval to his words. He tells me that tonight has been his greatest triumph so far and it was only fitting that it had an audience. The ruffian takes off his felt hat and leans forward to kiss me on both cheeks. And like an artist signing his masterpiece, he tells me his name.

With a final smile from my killer he raises the needle that he recently removed from my spine and with excruciating slowness, inserts it into my right eye. Even as it enters my brain i am still stunned by the revelation that i have been killed by a man of my own aquaintence. A noble man of the highest rank and favourite of the imperial court. A native of fair Bretonnia and fourth in line to the Dukedom of Brionne, Sir Artemis d'Lyon..........

Thank you for reading,



Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 January 2012 )
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