Part II - Our Common Grave:: 34
Singing. He was singing.
Or at least as far as one could call that singing. It was more akin to an unaware humming than a melodious grouping of notes. He had caught himself doing that a lot recently, especially now that his job as a Cyneweard kept him away from his family’s garden, and by extension Brisa’s company, on a regular basis.
He had been assigned months ago to the all-but-lifeless western edge of the palace complex, an area bereft of any hustle or bustle. So dead was the area that the small squad of Cyneweard tasked with patrolling it frequently met up between patrols to play cards, trade gossip and rumor, or eat snacks or lunches.
During today’s mid day meal break, the discussion between Broch and Elam, his colleagues, rested on the recent escalations in combat action bordering Millewhist. The rebels had captured an entire squad of supposedly elite Imperial soldiers. The Emperor was furious and deemed it necessary to undertake reprisal attacks against the wall-edge communities just outside of the city. This action had only stoked the fire inside the city and more and more Imperial assets were being destroyed or captured. The city was in its second year of rebel occupation and the Imperial Army had done little to budge them. Skirmishes broke out numerous times daily and a lot of working class families were getting letters bearing bad news.
Meanwhile, here was a group of sons of nobility tasked with giving their lives for the Emperor, eating lunch at a too-small garden brunch table, not a worry between them. It felt too easy to Cyrus. Too soft. His assignment to the western zone of the Palace district had been a “gift” from his father, an easy patrol job. Cyrus knew the real reason for his placement there: to keep him out of his father’s way as the rebellion kicked into high gear. As his father had predicted, the poor handling of the revolting citizens in Millewhist had produced a stalemate. The Imperial Army couldn’t storm Millewhist without endangering innocent lives. The rebellion couldn’t take the army head on. It was turning into a long, bitter siege.
“A letter got out with an Army courier the other day. Said my pops was injured in the line of duty but he refused to come home,” said Broch before stuffing a large roll into his mouth. The young man was, for lack of a better term, plump. His uniform was ill fitting, his shoulders narrow, his hips wide, and his head small. The tuft of hair sticking out from his ill fitting beret was so blonde it looked silver. His features were malleable depending on both the light and the angle of his face. Cyrus had trouble imagining Broch ever ranking in the Crucible or finishing the strenuous physical training in the Academy years. Nevertheless, here he was, and out ranking him.
“What’s he going to do?” asked Elam, a bulky, round jawed son of a mine-owning noble family. While they lived on the outskirts of the Capitol City, Elam had made it through the Cyneweard training a year before Cyrus and had helped him adapt once he had been assigned.
Broch shrugged and gulped down the bread. “My mother says he’s going to help behind the scenes, help the other men firm up plans and things. Sounds like a load of shit to me.”
Elam laughed and tugged at his turkey leg. “Yeah... Cyrus, could you please knock off the humming?”
Cyrus shook his reverie. “Huh? Oh yeah, sorry.”
Broch pointed a pudgy finger at him. “That’s a sad song, friend. Hope you’re not always in that mood.”
“Sad?” Cyrus asked, leaning back in the garden chair. “I always found it to be more hopeful than anything.”
“Whatever you say,” replied Elam. “Just cut it out while we’re conversing. Gives me the creeps.”
“You scare too easy, Elam,” laughed Broch, crumbs falling from the corners of his mouth. “Let the man hum if he wants to hum. It’s not like he wants to eat or anything. You ever gonna bring lunch, Cyrus?”
Cyrus shrugged and crossed his arms, looking out over the expansive palace housing area, just south of their position. “I tend to eat before and after duty is done.”
“Suit yourself,” belched Elam, slamming the back of his fist against his chest.
Broch laughed. Cyrus grinned but kept his eyes trained on the housing area.
“Waiting for something?” asked Elam, noticing his colleagues gaze.
“Yeah, you’re staring over there a lot.”
Cyrus grunted and answered. “Just pining for home.”
“I know that feeling,” Elam empathized. “Sometimes I miss the hard work that went into working the land.”
“You’re the only one,” chuckled Broch, jamming another roll into his mouth.
Their laughter tried to spread its way into Cyrus’ mouth but a bright flash of orange in the housing area caught his attention.
“You guys see that?”
“See what?” asked Elam, turning to look in the direction of Cyrus’ gaze. “Buncha houses. Still pining for home?”
“No,” replied Cyrus. “That’s not it.”
Another orange flash.
“What the-” Elam spat out, pieces of chewed up turkey bouncing off of the small table’s surface.
Yet another orange flash. A yell caught their ears. Another. And another. A loud report. Another yell.
Cyrus sprung from his chair and picked up his duty lance from the ground next to the table.
“Woah, woah!” shouted Broch, who managed to almost flip the table over as he leaned on it to raise himself from his chair. “What’s the happening out there?”
“I’m going,” said Cyrus, his tone even and firm.
Elam stood. “Yeah, I guess we should.”
“But that’s South. We don’t do South,” protested Broch. “I command you to stand down for now. We need to wait on instructions.”
“Protect the Emperor,” Cyrus flatly replied.
“That’s the housing district,” retorted Broch.
“I’m going too,” stated Elam. “You can give us demerits later.”
And with that, the two Cyneweard ran in the direction of the blooming chaos.