His Majesty’s Service, Moths to a Flame, Chapter 1.2

Moths to a flame. That’s what the Celns said when something brought them together. Like this coronation of their king, or barley a little too unsupervised under a canvas on  a cart in one of the dwindling numbers of caravans from the southern valley.

Moths to a flame. People needed to eat, they needed to find safety and they they needed to feel safe, even if deep within their bone’s marrow, they knew they were not. Even if the light of their precious day–the same light that burned his skin and singed the hair from his head should he expose himself for the briefest of moments–even if that light was dwindling too. The people needed a lot of things these days, and particularly these nights, as did he. They needed each other, although he did not, and they needed to see their king. They did not need song, although they wanted it, but wanting wasn’t getting the coin from their pockets anymore, and Gareth was now starving. It was an interesting metaphor, Gareth thought. But he had another he liked better.

As shadow to a crevice. 

It had always made sense to him, for he had often thought of it just as he was seeking shelter from the storm, or from the demons of the outwilds, or from man. 

But unlike the Celn expression, it did not mean a collective sense of safety, nor did it mean safety at all. It was a silent, lonely expression. It was a pursuit in isolation, and in that isolation was the safety found. As shadow to a crevice. This was what had kept him alive, and he understood it well. 

Gareth did not remember where he had learned it. For Gareth did not speak of such things, and as he grew into a young man, or so the Celns viewed him, he learned that not speaking of things, led to one not thinking of them either. And since he had no memory of it anyway, the lack of thinking of why he had no memory began to fade as well. The past began to be less about what he remembered, and what he knew, for he began to care little for any of it. And by the time he had come to the great capitol of Cellinor, memories began to leak from his mind like rain drops from a wet slicker, or like shadows to a crevice.

And so when Pudd had asked Gareth to prove his worth, while wearing a sly grin and holding a mouth full of food, neither of which  Gareth himself had owned in nary a week, Gareth had agreed. And when Pudd had taken Gareth’s lyre as collateral, his throat filled with food had nearly been slit by a quickly drawn blade from the boot. 

But Pudd was never that vulnerable. He was simple, but he wasn’t stupid, and his guards were always nearer to his guests, than he himself was.

And when Pudd had told him that the wares districts guards would be like moths to a flame during the parade to the coronation of Lord Genoran, Gareth saw it differently.

“Salaman the performer possesses a rare item, a hat and a pet that I wish to have for my personal wishes, Gareth.  I wish for you to acquire them. Should you do this, as a favor for me,” Pudd swallowed the last of the bread, leaving crumbs along the side of his fat lips. Gareth had felt his mouth water, and his pulse quicken with familiar contempt. “Should you bring them to me, I will advise you on matters of work with…,” he picked up a mug fashioned from a skull in the manner of the Oorst. In it was a red colored liquid, that Gareth knew was not wine, nor blood, but that if Pudd had been lucky enough might contain either in some small quantity.  With a long satisfactory swig that made the inside of Gareth’s mouth grow drier than it had been, Pudd let out a satisfied sigh. “I will advise you on matters of a higher compensation Gareth. So…” Pudd poked a fat finger at a fine lyre laying in the corner, Gareth’s, “don’t fuck this up you skinny rat! If you do, I’ll sell your little trinket for a whore!” 

Gareth pulled his hood up and rolled his sleeves out.  With the chill that had come on the last few seasons, he had little reason to worry about his appearances midday, although he still had one very good reason to be concerned about being outside then. He left without saying a word, behind him the rough cackles in short bursts, the sound of Pudd laughing. 

The guards were as moths to a flame Gareth mused. And so too were the small bursts of laughter that Pudd had made against his person that afternoon. But Gareth would return with Pudd’s prize for he was a shadow to a crevice, and the shadows had grown dark and long in these days, and that was where Gareth found he was most at home.  And when he brought back what Pudd had asked for, he would wait, alone, as a shadow in a crevice once more, and he would take his prize back. And whatever else he wanted.

For he was of the shadow, even though he couldn’t remember from what crevice he had crawled out of.

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