Title: To Spain
Rating: PG for misery
Word Count 732
Spoilers None, really
Disclaimer Same as ever
They came at night. Always. They came in the small hours, when a man had at last made peace with the lice, and the fleas, and the cold, and the chafe of his chains. There came a moment, finally when a man had schooled his thoughts to kinder times. Maybe he rubbed himself, a little in the covering dark. And then he dipped below the surface of dreams, however briefly. That was always the time that they chose.
The boot struck his ribs, and he heard himself grunt. He scrambled, up and backward, against the dripping wall.
“This the right one? You sure.”
The voice was harsh. The boot pried at him, The faces peered at him in the gloom, close enough to spit or strike.
“Archibald Kennedy--- that you?”
Archie allowed himself a nod, terse and wary. He had not spoken in months. There was, after all, nothing to say.
They dragged him, shivering, to his feet. They unlocked his chains from the wall. The sudden weight of them burned his wrists. Archie pressed his lips together, and stumbled forward. His feet were bare and numb, his eyes burned in the unaccustomed light. He thought only of not falling, If he went down, if he hesitated, the beating would be immediate.
They hurried him forward, he could feel the sword-point tearing at his shirt, his dirty skin.. He went up a sloping tunnel of stone, cleaner and brighter towards the top. He was aware of his own filth, as he climbed toward the light. This was indoors now. He had, for a moment, floor beneath him, and walls around him, however rough. People lived this way. He remembered, but it felt remote. He had been an Earls son, once, and was no longer. He had been a midshipman once-- no longer. Here, in the glare of the lamps, he was above his station. These men had made him into a beast, but Archie was the one who felt ashamed.
They pushed him to a postern door. The hinges shrieked, and Archie felt himself cringe. They pushed him out the door. The air outside was damp, and smelled of clean growing things. Spring and night, were all around him. The empty dark stretched on forever. He took a deep breath, and coughed.
In the grey, against the darker trees Archie could see the cart. There was a line of men chained behind it. He would be in company, then. He walked to the end of the line and mutely held his chained hands out. He had done this before, after all. More than twice, in the last year and a half.
The sun came up. The new day was clean and blameless. The sun shone through the trees, into Archie's sunken squinted eyes. His legs were aching already, from the unaccustomed marching. The man before him had a ragged gait. Archie matched it, all morning. He matched it, as the damp of morning burned away, and the dust of the road rose to choke their mouths.
It was evening, when ragged gait man went down. His step faltered, and Archie's with it. Chained so closely, Archie had no choice. The rifle butts came down and down, on them both. The shining boots kicked joyously, indiscriminate. Archie drew his legs in, and covered his head, as best he could. Ragged gait moaned. Then he stopped. He didn't move or make any more sounds. He was no more fun.
They kicked at Archie's legs, in turn. They were angry at the denial of belly and balls. He kept his head down, and his legs up. He crossed his bare feet, he ground his face into the earth. He tried to wait.
After some time, his legs gave a kicking twitch. It seemed to happen on its own. He rolled away, as far as his chains would allow.
“Escape attempt.” They laughed, as they dragged him to his feet. It would be inked into his dossier. Archie Kennedy, with three escape attempts now. He was a fearsome fellow.
They left ragged gait behind in the dirt. Archie never saw him again.
Marching again, they were headed West. It was full dark when they stopped. That was the first day. They marched for the next 50 days. They marched to Spain.