The Lady’s Hand: Part Four – Alexander Rahl
20
November, 1999
The Lady’s Hand: Part Four – Alexander Rahl

–==Official Submission==–
FROM: First Sergeant Alexander Rahl
RE: The Lady”s Hand:

Young Private Salmnow was curled in the corner in the back
of his darkened cell, facing the back wall and sobbing
violently. Two days worth of food sat untouched just
inside the bars, already rotting amidst the damp and filth
that surrounded it. He appeared to be in well enough
physical shape, though he seemed extremely weak. Colonel
Thames had apparently put the fear of the General in those
who came in contact with Salmnow, for he was indeed in much
better shape than anyone else would have been after two
nights in Tablenhelm’s prisons.

scritch, scritch, scritch

Alexander looked away from his observations to try and
pinpoint where the sound was coming from, but he couldn’t
seem to isolate it. Most likely rats in the walls, he
concluded.
Salmnow was muttering something to himself between his
sobs. Probably some quiet admonition against the nightmare
that surrounded him. He would have to eat soon, or the
Priest would most likely kill the lad in spite of himself
during the daily sessions. Alexander knew that he really
shouldn’t care about this particular failure; in fact, he
wasn’t sure why he hadn’t had the boy killed outright when
he had failed in his silence.

scritch, scritch, scritch

“…we believe the Priest’s…medicines…don’t work on him like
the others…”
“…raised as a blacksmith, son of a tailor woman and a
soldier…”

scritch, scritch, scritch

He knew why he had spared the boy. He was just unwilling
to accept it. The Lady’s Hand realized that the scratching
was not coming from the walls, but from Salmnow, who was
using a chunk of stone to carve something into the wall.
Alexander looked at the boy’s cell at great length,
noticing for the first time where exactly in the cellblock
that he was. A wash of revulsion and horror spread through
his body, permeating his very soul, made worse with each
tiny scratch against the wall. Finally, when Salmnow had
finished his work, Alexander stepped out from his vantage
point, startling a nearby guard so absolutely that the man
had his sword half-bared before realizing he was about to
prosecute his General.

“Guard…” Alexander said, as soon as the man had composed
himself, “this man, Salmnow is imprisoned by mistake.”

“Sir?” responded the man incredulously, definitely not the
brightest of the Lady’s stock.

“Imprisoned by mistake, Corporal.”

“Um, er…yes sir. Er.” The man looked between Alexander and
the cell door, trying to comprehend what he was supposed to
do now.

“The door, Corporal.”

“Ah, yes sir!” said the man, now imbued with purpose. He
quickly unlocked the door, and drug Salmnow to his feet and
half-carried the man out of the cell and presented him to
his General. A dirty, weak-kneed Salmnow looked up into
the General’s eyes, trying to determine whether he was
being forgiven or executed. Alexander held his gaze for a
long moment then turned to the guard.

“There was a mistake, this man’s breeding prevented him
from completing his task. It was an error on the late
Colonel Tarek’s part. Take laborer Salmnow here to the
forges beneath the tower. There he will continue the tasks
that he was bred to do. I’m sure foreman Ix will be glad
to have such a fine workman as his apprentice.”

“Of course sir,” responded the guard, turning to Salmnow as
he escorted him to the stairs, “We’re real sorry about the
mix-up lad. On behalf of the General I’d like to…” the
man’s voice was cut off as the door to the cellblock
clanged shut.

Alexander entered the cell slowly, gingerly, and walked to
the back wall. Salmnow’s carving stood out sharply against
the grimy stone.

I AM NOT A KILLER. I AM NOT EVIL. THEY LIE. I AM NOT A
KILLER. I AM NOT AN EVIL MAN. THEY WILL NOT MAKE ME
BELIEVE IT!

With an unwanted tear welling up in his eye, he leaned down
and wiped two decades of grime and filth away from the wall
below Salmnow’s admonition.

I WILL NOT SUCCUMB!
-SILENT

And below it:

NOR WILL I!
-ALEXANDER

The Lady’s Hand fell to his knees and held his hand to the
words that he had scrawled fifteen years previously. He
has promised himself, and somehow promised Silent, that he
would not fail. And he had done exactly the opposite.
Silent, the lone Terath-Ambul who was immune to the mind –
altering drugs of the Priests. Silent, who had slain his
entire unit because he believed in a man he had never met.
Silent, who had saved not only his life, but also that of
Alexander’s father time and time again.
Silent did not succumb.
Silent was the only man since the dawn of time who had
truly defeated the Lady.

“And now I share her bed,” whispered Alexander
gravely. “In this room I truly died. I’m so sorry, old
friend. I’ve failed you.”

He stood slowly and walked stiffly out of the cell; and in
all of his life, until the day he died as an old, war-torn
man, Alexander Rahl never set foot inside that place again.

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