Posted By caveo on May 21, 2006
It was a very distinct sound, the quiet scraping of steel on stone, which first told him that his visitors had arrived, followed by a strange sort of tapping, and the shuffling of feet.
The tapping outside in the alleyway became more pronounced, and he suddenly realized it was less the sound of tapping than it was a soft cacophony of claws, snapping together in anticipation. He set aside his pen and notebook, and settled back in his chair. There was no denying it. It was time.
The strained amber light of an English afternoon streamed through the greasy windows of the door as it slowly opened into the study.
He refilled his pipe with his special cinnamon tobacco mix, and noted with passing interest that clouds were beginning to gather on the far horizon.
A storm was coming.
It didnâ€™t matter, he thought to himself with some satisfaction. He had said the things he needed to say to the person who needed to hear them. He had protected that precious stewardship which needed protecting, and passed it to those who would use it wisely and well.
There was, he concluded, not much more that could be asked of an old scholar, in this world, in this lifetime.
The silhouette in the doorway gestured to him, and he caught a glimpse of wickedly sharp steel, which curved to a point, as the visitorâ€™s arm rose and fell. The clicking noises in the alley grew louder.
â€œGreetings, Professor,â€ the shadowy figure said. â€œMight I have a word with you?â€
â€œItâ€™s not here,â€ the Professor said, lighting his pipe and drawing deeply on it. â€œYouâ€™re too late.â€
His visitor appraised him for a moment, before concluding that the Professor was speaking the truth. â€œIâ€™m very sorry to hear that,â€ he said. â€œThat does not bode well for you.â€
The Professor shrugged. â€œWhat happens to me is no longer important. You may claim my life, but Iâ€™ve put an empire forever out of your reach â€” and when all is said and done, which of the two matters more?â€
The visitor gestured again, and the tapping noises outside gave way to snarls and animal howling.
There was a rush of bodies, and in seconds the small study was filled with ancient steel, and pain, and blood.
When the noises again faded to silence, the visitors left the study as they had found it, with one exception.
It would be several hours before the first raindrops from the approaching storm would begin to freckle the paving stones in the street, but the Professor would not see them fall.