|Walter woke with a start. Although dawn was hours away he knew he wouldn't sleep again. It wasn't the freezing desert night that would keep him awake, nor was it the throbbing agony of his sun-blistered skin, nor the thirst and hunger that would never again be satisfied. No, it was the dream that kept sleep at bay.
It was of Al-Qabar, a walled town that barely merited a dot on the map, yet whose mere existence had focused so much slaughter. For a month the Crusaders had fought there before Tayyib ibn Ghazi came with his ten-thousand riders. That was twelve long days ago, and of the fifty Crusaders who escaped the killing, fewer than twenty still lived.
Walter struggled to his feet and stumbled between his Crusader brothers where they slept. The desert swept away into darkness, its dunes and sand-ripples caught in the full moon's deathly gaze like an ocean frozen in time, a moment made eternal by the ghost of day.
Ahead sat a solitary figure.
"Who approaches?" the figure whispered.
"Walter the shoesmith," he replied.
"Then come. You are welcome." As Walter approached he recognised the figure as Giles d'Arras, knight-serjeant of the Hospitallars and lord of Halston-upon-Ouse.
"Forgive me, my lord,” Walter said, “I didn't recognise you in the dark."
"Sit, my friend, we're all simple men here," Giles said. "Death makes no distinction."
Walter sat and they stared into the east together, silent but for their laboured breathing in that soundless, moonlit emptiness.
Time passed and the sun began to rise over the desert wastes.
“There, my friend”, Giles mumbled, “the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.” The knight held Walter's hand and sleep finally came upon him.
He knew he wouldn't wake again, but there would be no dreams and it was good.
© Copyright 2012 Steve Wilds (UN: gibbonici at Writing.Com).
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