Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Kingsford 7.1: The Knight


There was the sound of heavy feet pacing on stone, back and forth. A muttering sounded across the water of the lake, words indistinct; probably meaning nothing. Silver moonlight ran down the tower's walls, making them shine dully. The electric lights the Council had set about the illuminate the building were dark, the absence of the artificial light made the tower more mysterious, more dangerous; as if dragons lurked there, not just the ghost of a knight.

Aiden crouched at the water's edge. He ran his fingers through the water, wondering what had brought him here. Why had he decided to take a walk? Sleep had proved elusive but the sudden decision to go out into the dark had surprised even him, especially after the pigs had called round earlier in the day. He had paced about the house all day, unable to settle.

How his path had led him to the tower and the lake he had no idea, but as soon as he had entered the park he had made his way to the water's edge. It was as if he had to check that it was still there, after the dreams.

He raked his hand through the mucky water again, dredging it up between his fingers. His eyes scanned the lake, almost expecting the bridge to be there. In the dreams there was always a bridge, or a narrow causeway that allowed you to walk from the shore out to the little island the tower rested upon. But then, in the dreams the tower was always intact, or close to it and the knight was never on the ramparts but at the gate, with sword drawn waiting for them. In the dreams, Brendan was always there too, the brothers as inseparable as they had been as toddlers.

Aiden glanced around nervously, just in case his brother was there, breaking cover from the undergrowth, but he had been sensible, and was presumably still wrapped up at home. He had gone back to bed soon after the police had been, and roused only briefly to eat dinner in a circuitous route that led from bed to kitchen and back again. The events with the dog had shaken him more than he cared to admit, but Aiden knew it would take a few days for Brendan to be anything like his charming, confident self again.

The ghost shifted again, but kept his vision fixed upon the tree line. In the moonlight Aiden could see the conical helmet with its strong nose guard more clearly. There was a dent in the front of the helm, his kite shield was damaged. He was a long way from the figure that haunted Aiden's sleep, with his grim purpose, running out over the water with a loud, alien cry; a long stream of words that did not mean anything at all.

The spirit spoke suddenly. Aiden's jumped, snatching his hand from the water. He stared up at the tower.

Silently the knight changed position from a sentry pose to a fighting stance. He gripped his spear, pointing the weapon down over the battlements. He seemed to be tracking something on the other side of the lake. As Aiden watched he crossed to the far side of the tower.

“Halt, stand where you are!” This time the ghost's words rang clearly in the night air. In answer there was a rustle in the bushes, as someone or something bolted away. The ghost turned, hesitated, staring down at where there should have been stairs leading back to terra firma.

Aiden began to pick his way around the lake. What had prompted the outburst? His eyes scanned the undergrowth, searching.

He barely travelled fifteen feet when the vixen slunk out of the thick hedge, running over to his side. She stared up at him with wide eyes.

“What are you doing here?” He said, holding his hand out. She pushed her nose into it a couple of times, with a certain amount of urgency. She twisted her head, looking towards the tower. “Was that you he was shouting it at? I wonder why, surely he's seen a fox before?”

She pushed her head against him again, yipped softly; her tail shivering.

“What's wrong?”

As if in answer she looked up at the tower, back at him as if telling him to look in that direction. He glanced up, nodded.

“I've been dreaming about him, I'm getting sick of him being in my head at night.” He walked back to the shore, dropped his coat on the grass. He began to wade into the water, gasping as the cold enveloped him. Sooner rather than later he had to swim, slopping across the lake. The water moved sluggishly around him. He strove it out of his mouth, stopping halfway to tread water and spit it out, grimacing at the brackish taste that clung to the back of his throat. He bent to swimming again, moving forward with long sweeps of his arms and legs. Finally he reached the island, caught its border and pulled his way up onto the land.

He collapsed, stared back to the path where the vixen sat, watching him. He waved and made his way towards the tower. There was a tumble down wall, dull safety notice pinned to it with a warning to keep out. Aiden ignored it, clambering up over the stones and through the remains of the doorway.

Cold crept over him as he stepped out into the tower's base and stared up at the crumbling mass of stone. The moon shone bright, clear, hanging directly overhead. It was larger than it had been outside the tower and the shadows it cast were strange, fleeting. Aiden suppressed a shudder as they moved around him. He saw faces in the them, leering out from the darkness. He took a step back as they swarmed about the walls, filling the hollow tower with darkness.

From the top of the tower he heard a clank, his eyes rose to see the knight, standing at the edge of the jagged broken staircase. The shadows reached up, and he stepped out onto them, letting them lower him back down to the ground. His eyes glowed red under the edge of his helmet. His sword rasped from its scabbard as he stepped forward, the dents seemed to flow out of his helm, his shield. He stepped forward, gestured with his hand, and impossibly, there was the sound of a door shutting.

Aiden risked a glance back and saw the way was barred, a wooden door, bristling with rivets, now stood between him and freedom. To his left a torch flickered into life, casting an orange light across the room. Above the moon disappeared, leaving only the light of the guttering torch. He stared that he approaching knight as he advanced.

Outside, Yelena saw the ghost disappear, and something thrilled down her spine. Something was wrong. Instinct told her that she needed to go, needed to fetch the other boy, the sun child. She leapt to her paws and ran, heading through the darkness towards the boys' home.