As dawn approached, they packed their gear up and formed into a line. Kroll ordered his soldiers to move out in a rough voice. They ran across the plain, trampling over the dwindling heather as woodland rose ahead. It was a long, hard day’s march. Ned began in the middle of the pack but, after a few hours, he was forcing the pace at the front. Sweat stung his eyes as he doggedly pushed on. It was as fast as they had ever run and for a more sustained period of time. Ned breathed heavily but held firm. They reached the forest as the sun silhouetted the trees and set up camp.
Ned sat down, feeling he had proved his mettle. He was happy because it would be easier running though the trees. But this was deep into enemy territory, so there was no chance of running into a patrol of the King’s men. Approaching sixteen days of consecutive march into captivity, Ned’s will to live had taken over. He felt good, despite the distance from his home ever growing.
After a meal, Big Nose approached Ned to chain him to a tree for the night. The man gave Ned a piercing look, so the boy averted his gaze in case he irritated the man. Big Nose bound the chains around a tree and grabbed Ned’s hair. He clipped the clamp roughly around his neck and smacked Ned’s face against the tree. The bark dug into his cheek. No words were exchanged and Ned did not make a noise. He sucked up the pain. In the still of the night, Ned lay under his blanket and tried to sleep. His face was sore and a pounding head kept him awake most of the night.