For most people the sight of such a creature, especially one so old and decayed as this (its upper and lower lips had been nibbled away by the same rat that had devoured its long dead nose) would have been a cause for petrified alarm. This one, though, had been through its own hell, more than once, and had become sodden by a flood that had swept all others before it. As a consequence, this leather was a limp affair more akin to a chamois leather than a thing from the other side of life’s fragile veil. What would cause a thing to clasp its hands together in a prayer for deliverance was the figure that was now moving into the remains of the entrance hall.
“So my friend, you are the one that returns. I must say that this is something that I did not expect.”
There was a playful quality in Hope’s voice that bounced along the stone floor in the mannerof a decapitated head would bounce into the base of the basket placed to catch it.
“You look wet and cold. It is not the time of year to be abroad. The weather is inclement and cruel. Tell me why you and none of the others are here.”
With a tongue that had grown lazy through lack of use and through a dialect that was more German than English, the leather tried to explain. He told about the trek across the land and of the coming snows. He told of the awakening of hundreds of others like himself and of the way it had been; just as they had been told it would be. He told of the party they had ambushed and of the prisoners they had taken.
“And did you do as I instructed with them?”
The leather, who had not been bright of thought in life, had not improved its perceptiveness in death. He merely looked towards the place just below the eyes of that which called itself Hope.
“Did you,” his interrogator hissed with the beginnings of exasperation, “did you gain our spy?”
The language was not a problem for the leather, although the way it was spoken ought to have been. What the leather was struggling with was the meaning behind the words. He had little idea as to what was meant by “spy”. The leather had been on the periphery of the army, an extra in a war that was being run by those black monks who had the thing as their own.
The monks were something that was leather, and yet more. They were to be both followed yet avoided, as was Hope. So, in a flash of insight, the lone, damp excuse for a creature from beyond the grave, asked itself why it was standing there before the thing that was Hope. Why did it not just find some nice, dry, dark place to lay down, sleep, and wait for some other time to wake? The question, like the answer, always came too late.
Wrong words at the wrong time.