Word Count 500
There was grit under his shoes. It felt strange. Grit made a sound, as his feet learned the land again. He had never walked French soil with shoes on. Well, first time for everything. Archie grimaced. His sea legs did not stumble, but he had to think to move with grace.
The men of Horatio's division toiled back and forth. They were damp and sweaty but, they were cheerful enough. He had heard Oldroyd earlier saying something about seeing “-- a bit of muslin, maybe.” And then Archie had seen Matthew's hard nudge. Matthews thought more than he spoke.
Archie was standing by the quayside, when came the sound of feet, many feet, and he turned to face them, had to face them. The horseman first, and he was a greasy haired posing popinjay. He was the sort, certain sure, to tie a mans hands to his saddle and--- and there now, the sound of grit, and the sloppy slap of feet. And this was not hate, nor fear. Not fear, surely, that clenched his gut. The taste of the not-fear was sour in his mouth. Archie swallowed.
“Frogs!” Oldroyd's outrage was comically pure.
Archie had felt Horatio's heart beat against him last night, dear and precious. He had felt it under his lips, he had rested against it, pictured it, safe between them. Now he could feel Horatio, standing a foot away, go rigid and watchful. He could almost hear Horatio's heart. He own was pounding. He could smell the Frenchmen. He felt his nose wrinkle, more snarl than sneer.
And then, high over it all, breaking sweet and clear, the sound of a fife. And now, the sound of scores of boots, striking as one, and the gleam of muskets in the dull light. They rounded the corner, a blur of gold and black and red.
In front, came a horse to make a horseman sigh. Archie took in the lines of it, the arched neck, the deep chest. It tossed its head, danced a little sideways. The rider let it, but he slid a confident hand down the withers, to soothe. You did not haul at the mouth of such a horse. Archie had not seen the like since he left Scotland.
The rider was equal to it. He was a picture book soldier, perfect to the buckles of his boots. He moved with straight backed ease. His face and hair were pale, aristocratic. But looking more closely, Archie saw more. The brown eyes were a surprise, warm in all the cool gold. They were wary, the eyes, and they were older than the rest of the face. The mouth below was mobile, and tucked back just a little in self-amusement.
The incline of the pale gold head was all pride too. The man's voice unfurled like a pennant. It was clear and perfect.
“Major Edrington, 95th foot. I was told someone can see to the embarkation of my men.”