I watched his face, his eyes closing slowly and staying shut.
One second.. Two seconds.... Three seconds...... Four seconds........
"Hey." Those eyes snapped open again and stared past me before his lips forced themselves into a smile at the sound of my voice. "You should take a rest. Lay down a while, or grab some kwahe.. bring me a mug as well. Yeah?" The dull amber of my colleague gaze grazed over my features before he murmured and shuffling off, promising to return shortly with more supplies.
Of course, I knew he wouldn't be back. The weariness was something that was becoming somewhat of a familiar friend. Despite the rain outside, my eyes felt dry and sore from the exhaustion and cotton wrapped my tongue. I don't drink kwahe myself, but for a cup of New Theran black right now, I would.. I would... Damn I really am tired.
"Focus." Self-scolding always works, right? Honestly, I never thought when I joined the Virtuosi would be working on projects like this. The assumption was a life of filled with laughter, music and fun. But there is no time for that right now.
This piece has to be perfect. Flaws will not be tolerated.
Finally, I take a moment for myself. The admonishment must have worked, I never noticed a new student slinking to take up the previously vacated station. But, my work is done and I can lay down my stick of wax. What lays before me is a masterpiece, a magnum opus and I flex my cramped and cold fingers in an attempt to find relief. Rising from my seat, now is not the time for celebration. Now comes the hardest part. I've done it before, I've done it so many times before but it never gets easier. My heart tries to summon the courage to pitapat as I clutch the parchment to my chest to protect it from the water as I walk through the dripping streets. I can't let it get ruined. Not now. NOt after I worked so hard on it.
I have walked this road so many times before I don't need to raise my head. I know where the the raised stones are, the puddles and the holes. My feet know where to step and in my bone-weary state I let them take me where I need to go. I don't even look up to the crowds as I approach them... but they see me. A shout rings out and the gathering surges towards me with expectation. They are all making so many noises at me, words and words but I can't make out a single one.
My head stays bowed as two sentries fall into step with me and bellow to clear the way. Together we make our way through the throng. The crowd hangs on to my every move as I walk along the wall. One sentry hands me a pair of tacks and with numb hands I pin my precious parchment up and immediately move to leave.
Noone hinders me now, their interest in me vanishing as their eyes linger on the new face. Perhaps vanity made me look back. Maybe a desire to feel the elation of a finished piece. Though I had only taken a handful of steps, when I looked back at the wall my pieces was already just another face in the swelling sea of faces that hung on the wall. I am already a street away when a sharp cry of crief rings reverberates through the rubble.
I keep my head bowed as I make my way back to the graveyard. There, at my station, I know there will be another. Another mother's bruised and torn face or a son broken in ways no young boy should break. My wax will be ready and I will continue the work until the Virtuosi have every fallen is identified.
The more faces I draw, the less the students have to. You see, the students need to rest but I... I shed the need to sleep and eat long ago.