by Amanda Kear
Characters: Thiede, OCs
Word Count: 4830
Summary: An old man discovers that he has skills that Thiede wants to make use of.
Old Mr Murthy was toiling back to his home with a load of firewood, when the Wraeththu came. One moment he was alone in the ruined street, wondering if his neighbour Santosh might have spare eggs to trade. The next the sky split open with a crack and the street was full of armed hara on huge white horses.
The old man cried out with fright, certain that he was about to die under pounding hooves or in a hail of bullets. The community of humans that lived here had thought that their crumbling quarter of the town was of no interest to the Wraeththu. Apparently they had been wrong.
But guns did not fire, nor horses charge. Most of the riders took up positions looking outwards from where the trembling Mr Murthy stood; warriors alert to threats that were more distant and dangerous than one old man with a basket of firewood on his back. One of the riders dismounted and strode up to him.
“You are Rhaghavendra Mahesh Murthy?” It was less a question than a statement, spoken in American accented English. The Wraeththu was unnaturally tall, with the pale skin of a European and hair of such a vibrant red-gold hue that it surely must be dyed. His – her? – clothes were neat and clean, a dazzling white in the sun.
Mr Murthy gave a mute nod. This apparition knew his name?
“I am Thiede. Which house is yours? It will be more pleasant to talk out of the sun, hmm?”
This flame-haired Wraeththu had materialised from nowhere and wanted to talk to him? Was he dreaming? Was this a hallucination brought on by a stroke?
The apparition looked at him expectantly. Mr Murthy hesitantly pointed further up the hill, to the tumbledown apartment building where he and his neighbours lived. Horses wheeled and riders pounded in that direction. He trembled. What had he just unleashed on his neighbours?
The one called Thiede walked towards the building, the white horse ambling along in his wake. Mr Murthy paused, wondering whether he should run…? Then wondering where on Earth he could run to, to escape horses that materialised out of thin air?
Talk. The red-haired one had said talk. If he was lying, at least he’d die in his own home. Mr Murthy trudged wearily up the hill in Thiede’s wake.