The Retriever--Chapter 5 by Mark Dawson

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Horta's blindfold was tight. So tight, it pushed his eyeballs further back into the sockets. He tried blinking while eyes closed to relieve the stinging that had seeped into his head, but the effort was futile. The pain remained and the headaches came, and he thought if he didn't get the blindfold off soon enough, he may go blind in the end.
The guards had neck-bounded him with vine to two of his fellow Ryklas and told him, along with the rest of the twenty Ryklas in the line, to march. That was all they said—march, while pushing him in his back or poking him with a sword. The guards started the walk off casually, but eventually quicken the pace to a jog until it slowed considerably when they reached a very slow incline of rocky ground. When Horta felt the small stones slip underneath his feet, he knew the guards were taking them out of Upland through the mountain border north of the battlefield. He remembered seeing the border, a low craggy chain the color of black that looked more like a pile of ash than a mountain range. The gray clouds hanged over its peaks like an ominous hand and a sparse of trees waited at its bottom. Horta, being a surveyor, had never been past this skirt of Upland, for it stretched well beyond Rykla's interests. The look of them hadn't feared him, but Horta had been concerned about what lay ahead.
For the rest of the day, he remained on rough terrain as his calves burned and his hips cramped. At the moment the guards stopped them for the night, Horta fell face first with the line into the ground. So tired was he, he didn't worry about the blow from the fall. He was asleep within seconds. The next morning, he woke to the feeling of a hand pulling him up by the back of his tunic. As he stood and waited, his head drooped forward and his mind went in and out of sleep. It wasn't long before he found himself on the move again, over a stone-brutal landscape that wrecked every each of his legs. Soon, he needed to pee, but knew not to ask. He held it for a good moment until it was impossible for him to do so. The warm urine plastered his breeches to the inside of his right thigh. When it dried, it started to itch uncontrollably, but he couldn't scratch with his hands tied behind him. Unable to take it any longer, he rubbed his thighs by walking with them closer together.
At sometime, the land became softer, like walking on hardened sand. It was easier on the knees as ground swelled and flattened beneath him, and Horta was grateful. However, after only a short time, he was on rocky terrain again and stayed there as the air gradually opened up and he heard a low rumble overhead. The breeze was cooler and came more frequently, blowing down his tunic and separating it away from his chest like a sail. The wind felt good, it soaked up his sweat, but Horta hoped the rain wouldn't come. The rain brought on the whoops, and the last thing he wanted was to be pounded by plops of rain for however much time while out in the open. That was how he got it two seasons ago, out surveying land east of a town called Erndo where trees to take cover were scarce, and the only protection he had was under his horse.

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