Daily Prompt for 12 January 2017

Every day, I’ll write my 500+ words for the day here, along with the prompt that I received for the day.

Today’s prompt (12 January 2017):

Title: A Walk at Dusk (1832)
By: Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774 – 1840)
Write at least 500 words: about the creation of this art, the subject/topic it brings to mind, the period in which the art is done, or how it makes you feel.

The waning moon hung silently over the forest, giving off just enough light to make out the trees and the grass. It was a cold night – colder than usual, Percival thought, as he pulled his robes closer about his person.

The night had already been long. To avoid suspicion, Percival had moved through the town several times, doubling back and retracing his steps to confuse anyone that might be following him. It was only after night had fallen that he slipped out of the city gates.

Tired and breathless, he finally arrived at the agreed meeting place – a pile of boulders, scattered in a well-known clearing. During the days, hunters and trackers from the nearby villages could be seen stalking through the forest. At night, however, the forest was silent, except for the occasional startled bird call over the faint rustling of trees.

There was more rustling than usual, though. Percival looked over his shoulder to see a man approaching – his body and face obscured by a black cloak, much like his own. The form and gait were familiar – his contact. Percival nodded to himself, then returned to scanning the tree line, looking for any movement.

“Pleasant evening to you.”

“And blessings upon your house.”

The newcomer stood in silence for a few seconds, and Percival felt the knot tightening in his stomach. The news was not good.

“It was as you feared.”

Percival sighed. “How bad?”

“The king has over two hundred knights ready to rally, and possibly a thousand more serfs and squires. They are being summoned from as far afield as Worcestershire.”

“Beyond even the reach of his own lands?”

The newcomer nodded. “Word is the king has made bargains with several of the freeholds. And that is not all. Under the cover of night, two Saracen ships disguised as merchant schooners have made port. I believe they, too, have been made a bargain, to supply siege machinery.”

The words hung in the air, ominous – war was no longer an if, but a when. Percival could already picture it – with a hundred knights alone, their walls could be breached with effective force. Double that, with siege weapons, and their wall could collapse within a day.

“How soon?”

The newcomer shook his head. “It is hard to say, but I believe the freeholds and the Saracen are expecting compensation within the next few days. It could be paid from the treasury, or from the spoils.”

“No time at all, then. I have been reliably informed that their treasury is close to depletion. I was expecting an act of desperation, but nothing as as dire as this.”

Percival reached under his cloak, pulling out a small leather pouch. He extended it to the newcomer, who waved it away.

“I am sorry, but your coin will be worth little in the weeks to come. In any event, I do not require compensation.”

“How so?”

“I have made a bargain of my own. I am truly sorry.”

A sudden rustling sounded from the treeline, a loud whipping noise, and Percival found an arrow lodged through his neck. He fell to the ground, writhing and choking on his own blood.

The newcomer stood still, watching his life bleed out, and the writhings draw still. He looked up at the trees, but the assassin had already made his escape.

“Goodbye, old friend.”

The newcomer turned and walked off across the field, vanishing into the forest.

Final wordcount: 578

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