In open land, the soldiers relaxed and hurried toward the village. The jolting was almost unbearable for Ned. The solemn parade made it to the Snook and village folk gathered around to witness the amount of dead bodies being brought back. On an open area of grass at the foot of the High Street, the bodies were laid out and funerals hastily arranged. The soldiers would be buried with full military honours. The merchants would organise a ceremony for their men. But, for Ned and his dead family, there was a problem. Funerals were not free of charge. Lord Snookington stepped forward and announced he would pay for the burial of the unknown swordsman’s family. His tales of bravery were legendary. And folk in the Snook owed him a great debt.
But the villagers were not sure what to do about Ned. The boy was injured and had no one left to care for him. A decision had to be made about his future. Lord Snookington made some space for Ned in a lodge on the grounds of his estate and medical care was arranged for the boy. He responded well to the treatment and soon moved from just taking water to eating. Within days, he was out of bed and making tentative steps around the lodge. Before long, he grew in strength.
Lord Snookington took an interest in the boy because his father had saved the lives of many people from the manor. While the orphan was recovering, he gave his name only as Ned. But he would not speak of his life in the forest. Lord Snookington studied Ned’s face as he rested one day. The boy was about the same age as his own son, but Ned had a much harder life. There were scars around his neck and it was clear he was strong, although it was somewhat masked by his wiry frame.
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