The music echoes throughout the longest night ever, the masquerade night.
It's the one night northerners can bury their grief behind a mask, and dance the night away. Men and women a step away from death take to the streets. The people are giddy, and not just because they're drunk- their bodies held more wine than a wine barrel- but because for one night, they were allowed to be happy.
I didn't have a single drop of wine in me. I hated the damn thing; a soldier's mind has to be awake at all times. Being dizzy only makes me more anxious.
Also, tonight was not the night to be drunk.
It's been two years since General Vlair was murdered. It's been one year since the last attack on my people, the northerners. A year after Vlair was killed, a new General rose, demanding the blood of my people, slaying them right and left. This is how we live now, in constant fear.
But all this will end after the masquerade.
I haven't attempted to dance all night; the dress I was wearing was strangling. My fellow soldiers were trying to suppress their laughs. It was a sight indeed, a soldier in a corset dress. Half of those soldiers wished I wasn't one of them at all. But when your numbers are dwindling, women, children and old men become soldiers. Mind you, I was the best out of my troop.
That is why I am the one opening the gates at midnight.
When the captain gave us the order a fortnight ago, no one dared to argue. He was our captain after all. We swore an oath to give our lives to him. And it was time for peace. We fight bravely, all of us, but none of us believes we can win this war. Our hatred for the Kingdom is what made us soldiers in the first place, but we shouldn't fool ourselves. We are doomed. We are poor and unarmed, and the Kingdom's army outnumbers us a hundred times over.
The city bell rang four times, and every soldier froze in their places. The music didn't stop; our people don't know what awaits them. But we.. we do.
I am already standing at the city gates. I keep thinking if what I am doing is right as I open the doors for the enemy.
It's time we give up. Yes, we will be slaves for the Kingdom, but aren't we already? Isn't this the whole point of the masquerade? A night to pretend that we are not living a constant nightmare? Us, the northerners, we don't wish each other a good night; we wish we'd each live to see the morning.
It's better to be a safe slave, than a free coward.
What we're doing is right.
At least that is what I believed, until the King's army stepped through the gates, sword in hand.
And then there was blood. Everywhere.
We are the Kingdom's rats. You don't enslave rats. You kill them.
My people were taken by surprise, the enemy cutting them open without blinking. Where mere seconds ago stood dancers, corpses lay now. The last man I saw get killed was our Captain. He looked me in the eye as a sword sliced through him. He died as a warrior should; fighting as his last breath leaves his body.
No one survived the masquerade.
Except the soldier in the corset. The soldier who opened the gates for the enemy. The soldier who ran off before she could take down even one of her people's murderers.
But that coward was the best of her troop.
Don't forget to give me a prompt for next week's story (my cookie offer is still standing).