Labora et Ora 2: Twice-worn Knuckles

His hand flashed out smashing into the wall. Petya awoke with a start and yelped. He heard the sudden shift, creak of a bed, and song-sigh of a sword being drawn.

“Saurry. Nitemare” Petya said softly. There was a short grunt of response and the blade slipped back into its sheath. He stared at the dark wall and gingerly touched it. His fingers came back chilled and slick. He frowned to himself, he would not be able to clean up the mess until dawn. The others deserved to sleep, as long as they were able. He rolled over and saw Sir Sven staring at him. The grizzled knight hardly slept anymore. Sir Sven’s eyes caught the flame of a candle causing them to reflect some barely contained malevolence. Petya did not move, like a rabbit who wandered to the wolf without thinking. In that space between heartbeats they stared at each other.

Petya felt his breath begin to tighten and his muscles protest. Sir Sven, he must know. The thought, the spell, the frozen heartbeat freed all at once. A sound of a guttural moan and the idle scratch at the door. Sir Sven stood without word and Petya moved to begin assembling the shell around the knight. They worked for a brief few minutes as the scratching became more insistent. Others stirred and saw the duo preparing, considered the noise, and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.

Once clad in armor Petya handed the knight his shield and took up place nearby. His eyes wandered over the nearby table of food scraps and noticed a dull knife. With a shrug Petya took the knife in hand and prepared himself.

As they took a step into the knight the night seemed to deepen. The stars pulled away, tucked behind tree boughs and cloud. Petya shut the door behind them as they began their patrol. They moved back and forth. The practiced knight moved as if he had cut their surroundings into their own diminutive territories and was proceeding to check and clear each. Petya rotated, ending up with his back to nearby foliage. He felt the sense of fear and impurity run up his spin before he heard the snap of a branch. Sir Sven moved past Petya and readied himself. Nothing leapt from the bush, no creature, just stillness. Sir Sven took a cautious step into the foliage and then another. Stepping off of the path and out of what little excuse for light existed.

Petya waited.

The soft squelch of something behind him shifted his attention. He turned to see a hideous, rancid, pallid creature. Its maw gaping wide and dripping with bile. Petya considered calling out but doing so might distract the knight. He stood his ground and leveled the knife. The creature circled slowly as if measuring the meager farmer. In a single motion it made up its mind and launched itself at Petya. He thrust forward and shut his eye tight waiting for the pain to rip through his body.

But the pain never came. He did not feel the creature collide into him. Petya opened his eye experimentally and looked around. The creature was gone. No sign it had even been. Petya glanced around to see if it had run off.

Petya turned to see the figure of Sir Sven towering over him, his features replaced by that terrible creature! It collapsed down on him bent on devouring him whole or in whatever pieces it could get.

His hand flashed out smashing into the wall. Petya awoke with a start and yelped.

He felt the weight of bad sleep under his eyes and saw that the dawn had already come. He could hear the sounds of the others quietly chatting and preparing to break the morning fast. He considered telling Sir Sven about his nightmares and asking his thoughts or maybe Sister Solace.

Regardless, there was nothing he could do right now. He knew what was expected of him and all that was left was to work and pray.

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