Post 24

After a food stop, the troop formed into a line and began to run. Ned was toward the back and, with the weight lifted from around his neck, he did well. The boy kept up with the men for the whole day, at the end of which they camped at the edge of a pine wood. Ahead was a remote moorland, and it looked like more difficult terrain. A fire licked flames upwards as a boar roasted. Ned felt stronger the more he ran. Every step carried him away from the Foijen, but each one also took him closer to survival. He understood now that failing to keep up with these hardened warriors meant death. An in-built stubbornness was all he had to stop him falling by the wayside.

Following a good sleep, Ned had some food and stood. Kroll walked over and unfastened the chains from the tree and then his neck. Ned rubbed the sore skin and stretched his legs. When they moved off, Kroll slowed the pace as they had to step over the clumps of heather. It took several days to make it over the moorland and they had to walk the whole way. Weariness set into the soldiers on this bleak landscape. With no paths, moving at speed was impossible. As they camped a last night on the moors, Ned noticed hills in the distance. He settled down to sleep with his chain secured around a large rock.

Ned blinked awake as the yellow and orange dawn streaked across the sky. He sat up and shivered in the cold air. It was almost featureless out there, except for one tree over to the right. He fixed his eyes on the tree and wondered why it stood alone, defiant to the desolate wilderness. Shaken from his thoughts by a guttural order from Kroll, it was time to pack up. Ned was unchained and given a bag to carry. He pulled it onto his back and secured the straps. He did not know what was inside, but it was heavy. Another test, he thought.

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