It’s week six and the story is still going. It’s the longest one yet and I hope you’re still having fun. You can click the following links to re-read the previous chapters: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. Thanks for reading!
I couldn’t very well go marching in the front gate, naked and unannounced, so I crept along the seaward side of the castle. Moisture slicked my palms as I pressed against the stone walls, sliding slowly, trying to avoid the eyes of the guard making his rounds on the wall above.
The protruding curve of the opposite tower seemed a mile away, but I made it in a handful of minutes. When I rounded the corner I had a clear view of the distant harbor. A harbor full of immense floating vessels bobbing on the waves like sea birds in repose.
I had seen boats before, in pieces, those that had dashed themselves against reef or rock and plunged unwillingly into our world. Never had I seen one hale and whole up close, I was intrigued.
A glance up at the wall let me know that guard had moved on. Before I could change my mind I raced forward, hair flying, wind caressing my skin. I raced toward a stand of brush partway down the long hill between myself and the beach. As I dove into the bushes I heard voices coming from the other side of a low rise on the seaward side.
Peering out I could just see two young men strip down, get a running start, and leap from the short end of the cliff wall into the sea. I heard the splash as they entered the water, followed by howls as they surfaced from the cold ocean water. They would have to swim a good distance to the beach, and then climb back up the hill. I crawled forward and relieved one of the men of his clothes.
Hiding in the bushes again, I pulled on the sweat-stiffened shirt. I sniffed and wrinkled my nose.
He should have left the clothes on, I thought.
Fortunately for me, he had not.
I stood, gasped, and fell back to the ground, praying I had not been seen, or heard.
Walking a path that would pass not far from where I hid was a small group of large men surrounding another man bound by chains.
Pressing my body into the sand, I listened for the clink-clank of the chains and the squeak-scuff of boots in sand to wax, wane, and finally disappear before I dared look out again.
The group was well past me now. One of the guards shifted and I had a clear view of the back of the man bound in chains. His shirt was torn in ragged strips and blood oozed from a dozen gaping wheals.
That must be him, the man who took my punishment.
My feet moved by a will of their own. No one looked back, and none of the men down the beach seemed to notice as I came down the hill, but I did not wish to take a chance. I turned toward the tree-line to my right as the party continued toward a group of waiting men.
From afar I watched as the chained man was forced to his knees. Those around him talked and gestured over his head, acting as though he was not there. Finally, a deal must have been struck. A purse was handed to one of the men who’d escorted the prisoner, he nodded to his men and they turned to leave. The one who’d given the purse yanked the chained man to his feet and pushed him toward a boat. The man stumbled and fell. He was rewarded with a kick to the ribs before being pulled to his feet once again.
Tears pricked my eyes as the chained man was led up the gangplank and then disappeared inside the vessel. I sat down where I was and closed my eyes. A deep breath helped to calm my nerves and strengthen my resolve. I waited for night to come.
What should we name the chained man?