Ned sat on the floor and trembled. The cell was in near darkness and he could not see the far wall. He crawled over and reached into the black. He flinched as a large insect scuttled near his grasp. The wall was damp and puddles formed on the floor. In a corner, he found some dirty blankets which he wrapped over his shoulders and sat on the material in an attempt to keep the cold at bay. Someone was in the cell opposite, but the lack of light meant he knew this only due to the dull moans and an occasional clank of a chain. Continue reading
The jailor opened a thick, wooden door and yanked the chain attached to Ned’s neck. The door slammed shut. The corridor was lit by burning torches on the wall but they were far apart so parts of the passageway descended into darkness. The jailor pulled the chain and forced Ned to stumble.
“Come on you louse, time to meet hell,” he spat.
At the end of the long corridor was a large door. The jailor fumbled with a set of keys and inserted one into the lock. A loud clunking noise and the door creaked open to a circular stone staircase. He shoved Ned inside, locked the door behind and lit a hand-held torch. The jailor pushed Ned ever downwards into the bowels of the fortress. The walls dripped with water and the air was dank. At the foot of the staircase, another door was pushed open and they entered the dungeon.
At the near end was a table and chairs, with a flame torch on the wall. Another jailor was sat by the damp wall. He had pockmarked skin and crooked teeth. The man ignored Ned as he was forced inside. A narrow corridor with a stone floor disappeared into the darkness. To each side, areas had been carved out of the stone and enclosed with iron-barred doors locked shut. No windows. As Ned was shoved down the corridor, he saw inmates inside the cells. Some were chained to the wall, others lay on the floor. The unlucky ones were suspended by chains from the ceiling with their feet only just on the floor.
An empty cell was unlocked with a big clunk. The jailor hit the back of Ned’s legs with a wooden club. The boy buckled and fell on the damp floor as the jailor secured the other end of the chain to a wall bracket. Ned saw the thin-lipped man looking down at him. A blackened smile revealed rotten teeth. As the jailor walked away, the boy noticed his hind leg dragged behind.
In the morning, breakfast was brought over to Ned. His eyes were puffy and the side of his face swollen. Dried blood marked a cut above an eye. The boy ate his food quietly and squeezed the bridge of his nose with a finger and thumb. Kroll approached and grabbed Ned’s chin. The boy flinched. Continue Reading
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. Continue reading
A steely expression swept over Ned’s face. The heather was thinning out to scrubland and Kroll brought his column of soldiers to a run. Within hours, they were on the edge of hills and interconnecting valleys. Rather than going over the top, Kroll led them on a level bearing to avoid gaining or losing too much height. Ned surprised himself by keeping up, even with the extra weight. But he was weary before even the sun rose to its highest. They kept going and sweat trickled down his ruddy skin. The boy’s chest heaved with the effort, but somehow he pushed on as a pigheaded determination set in. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
In the morning, Big Nose attached the chain to his wrist and sneered. “Let’s see if you can keep up with me, scum.” Continue reading
Ned looked at the soldiers around the fire. It was an unfamiliar part of the forest. The trees were a mixture of oak, fir and silver birch. Ned was chained to a silver birch. There was no chance he could get free. He sighed. Resigned to his situation, he wanted to try to keep up with the soldiers. His legs hurt and he was tired. A soldier walked over and threw some meat down. Ned took it gratefully. The soldier nodded. Continue reading
Soldiers tied Ned’s hands together and he was forced to the ground. What felt like a long time passed while the soldiers whispered irritably amongst themselves. Ned was brought to his feet in the late summer sun with hands bound to his front. He looked at the rough soldiers around him and nervousness set in. The man who wanted him dead stepped forward and pulled out a dagger. Ned looked down and held his breath. The blade hacked at the rope, which fell to the ground. Another soldier kicked the rope aside. The dagger was sheathed and the soldier walked over to Kroll. Turning their backs, the two men spoke in whispers. Continue reading
A chill shot down Ned’s spine as he hurtled away. But his legs seemed to be made of lead and he made slow work of the bank. The soldier pounded after him and soon made up the ground. As Ned was almost at the top, the soldier brought him heavily to the ground. The wind was knocked out of the boy and a gloved hand picked up the stolen sword. An iron grip enclosed around the boy’s leg. No words were exchanged. Continue reading