Grayne swayed at the end of jagged hooks, and as he slipped in and out of consciousness, the event that brought him to this moment tore through his mind like the hooks ripped into his flesh. He remembered the soldiers that pushed him into the large officer’s tent. A table and chairs, a bed and even a large bathtub adorned the spacious tent. Croget’s head and shoulders were visible in the bathtub which made sloshing sounds as he moved. The room smelled damp and of jasmine,
He was shirtless and his back and chest were adorned with many red lash marks.
Croget stood up and water flowed from his naked body as he stood there. Grayne looked at the young man with contempt for he had no signs of wounds or scars one would normally gain during military training or the accomplished service of an active knight. In fact, Croget’s lean form showed no sign of having done any manual labor in his entire life. He looked not unlike a twelve-year-old boy with a man’s height.
With his effeminate lisp the man-boy said, “How rude of me. Let me hide my shame.” And with that he stepped behind a semi-transparent partition that had the darkened shapes of trees painted on it. Grayne could still see the Croget’s silhouette as he put on a robe. Croget took extra time behind the barrier grooming himself, and as he did so, Grayne sprang into action.
In one fluid move he swept his handcuffed arms under his legs. With more range of motion he was able to pick at his skin on his shoulder where a sharp wound had healed leaving a jagged bump and raised scab. Grayne could see Croget through the vanity veil and seemed to be shaving his chest with straight razor. Croget said loudly, “I think good grooming is important, don’t you?” Grayne gritted his teeth as he pulled the metal out from under the skin on his shoulder. He clutched the metal piece in the palm of his hand. Blood was flowing from his shoulder and he swung his feet up over the metal links that restrained his hands as Croget emerged from the transparent barrier.
Croget approached Grayne slowly and deliberately. Each one of his steps looked dramatic, if not pathetic, due to his boy-like features. As Croget came closer he noticed the trickle of blood coming from Grayne’s shoulder. “Oh my!” he exclaimed. “What have they done to you?”
Croget brought over a towel and pressed it against Grayne’s bloody shoulder. Croget gasped again as he saw the lashes on his back and chest. He leaned in close and Grayne could feel his captor brush his lips against his back. Grayne cringed as Croget breathed hot breath into his ear and said, “I’m sorry they did this to you.”
Croget moved around in front of Grayne and traced his finger along his chest before walking away. Grayne unclasped his hand and began to work the very simple metal lockpick into the keyhole of his restraints. He feared the job would be impossible without being able to see the lock, but he was desperate.
With his back to Grayne he picked up a sword that the wounded northerner had not noticed before. Croget swung the blade through the air in a few practice swings. Grayne could hear the rapier slicing through the air. “You may be wondering how I came to such a high military rank at such a young age. I’m not just a pretty face,” Croget teased. “I am one of the finest swordsmen in Westeros, if not the known world,” he bragged. “I also studied military tactics and history under some of the finest minds.’
Grayne worked as fast as he could while trying to keep the metal scraping from making any noise. Every scrape sounded like an alarm of metal pots and pans falling off a high shelf, to his ears.
‘Keep talking, fop’, he thought.
Grayne held his breath as Croget turned and walked toward him. “Would you like to see my blade?” Croget asked with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his lips as he paced.
“Yes, sir,” Grayne feigned interest and respect with two words.
Croget held out the rapier in front of Grayne for inspection. “I cannot tell you how much it cost,” he said with a smile. “Trust me, it was significant.” Grayne saw more jewels on the basket-hilt rapier than he had ever seen in his life.
“Do you like it?” Croget asked.
Grayne paused as he worked on the lock. The tumbler was quite complex. There were in fact two, so while he held one down he bent the metal pick in half and worked on the other. “It is quite fine,”
“I so wish you could see me use it!”
‘I bet you’re fast,” Grayne said and with a satisfying click the manacles fell off his wrists. Suddenly Grayne was on his feet and closing the distance between him and his enemy. Croget was stunned and before he could raise his blade or scream for the guards, Grayne had his hands around his neck. Croget let out a tiny shrill screech that was not unlike a bat. “Not fast enough,” he said. Grayne was sure the guards had heard, but he kept on squeezing the life out of Croget. The fop’s face turned bright red as his mouth tried to pull air into his lungs.
As he anticipated, guards stormed into the officer’s tent with swords drawn. Grayne spun to face them as the last gasps of life slipped from Croget’s throat. With a final gurgle, he expired.
“He’s killed Lieutenant Croget!” one of the guards yelled, cleverly describing the situation. Grayne pushed the dead man’s form into the two guards and bent down to pick up the fine rapier that Croget was moments before showing to Grayne. As they struggled to steady the body and lower it to the ground respectfully, the young northern warrior sliced a long gash in the tent’s fabric, and without hesitation he jumped through the opening and into the camp.
Shouts of alarm emitted from the tent as the two guards shook off their confusion. Grayne used the cover of darkness to hide, but the structures were few and far between. He moved between the officers’ tents without being seen and was moving his way toward the fenced-in area for horses as the encampment erupted in activity. He could hear the rapid double clang of the camp bell followed by several seconds of furious noise. Soldiers huddled around campfires were on their feet and arming themselves.
“Halt,” shouted a voice behind him, but he did not turn or slow to acknowledge it. He did increase his pace to an all-out sprint.
An unarmed soldier appeared out of the darkness and grabbed Grayne around the waist and lifted him off his feet. He brought the basket hilt of the fine sword down on the back of the soldier’s head. Before the man could force Grayne to the ground, he was unconscious and lying face-down in the dirt.
Grayne took a moment to compose himself and get his bearings when he heard the rapid beat of hooves. He turned and saw a horse and rider in full gallop bearing down on him. The rider was swinging a spiked flail alongside the giant horse, and before he could raise his sword in defense or leap aside, the horse and rider were upon him. The last image he saw was the rider bringing the flail down upon him in an overhead strike. His world went black as the flail slammed down upon the right side of his face.
With a gasp, he awakened from his fevered dream. He still hung from the metal hooks as the sun beat down upon him. A teenage boy with a basket of apples stood staring at the wounded soldier. Grayne would have salavated if he had any spit left as the boy took and apple out of his basket and crunched into the delicious red flesh. The boy continued to stare at Grayne as he munched away. “What happened to your eye?” he asked.
Overhead, Grayne saw a black crow descend in a slow circle. It let out a shrill screech as it floated in a downward spiral, occasionally blotting out the sun with its onyx feathers.