They moved off as soon as Martha had gotten ready. Waiye had made everyone take pack filled to the brim with food, water and sleeping rolls. Where she had gotten them from was anyone’s guess, but Layke had seen her slip out while everyone was fussing over Martha and come back with her arms full.
“Where are we going again?” one of the women asked from behind Layke.
“Nearest town which has any people loyal to the Cause,” came Waiye’s reply from in front of Layke. “We are gathering forces.”
There was no reply from behind, and Layke decided that it was just the woman deciding not to say anything else, for there was nothing to say, really. Suddenly there was a sharp prick at the back of his neck. Layke stopped walking, and was about to turn around when he realised the prick had the coldness of a piece of sharp metal.
“Don’t move,” a voice hissed in his ear. Layke froze, not daring to even blink. “If you so much as shift, this blade will go into your skin and the women behind you will all die. Now, who’s your leader?”
Layke watched Waiye’s retreating figure. “Me.”
The woman behind him laughed. “You are nothing but a mere slave. Don’t fool me, boy, otherwise you’ll get serious consequences.”
“I am serious. I started this.” Layke prayed that she would believe him.
“What did you start?” the woman asked, blade digging further into the back of his neck. Layke winced, but not from the pain. He winced from the stupidity of his reply.
“I started this group of travellers. We call ourselves the Travellers of the Lands. We travel everywhere and experience what we can during our short lives.”
“That isn’t true,” the woman said. “You’re spies, aren’t you?”
Layke was about to shake his head when he remembered that if he did so, the dagger would probably cut through his neck. “We aren’t spies. How could we be? We haven’t got anything on us that would allow us to spy on you.”
“I still don’t believe you,” the woman said, snarling. “You don’t need anything on you to spy. All you need is a good memory and eyesight.”
The pressure on his neck was suddenly released, and Layke let out a relieved sigh. His relief was not to last, though, for there was a sharp shove in his back. Layke stumbled forward, and was caught by someone from behind. He was turned repeatedly, until he was dizzy and couldn’t orientate himself.
“Stop!” he said, but it sounded more like, “Sfmuhphh!”, because his mouth was muffled before he could really make any sound.
“Don’t open that mouth of yours, or else you might find that you no longer own one. Now go, and don’t open your eyes or else those will be gone, too.” There was another sharp shove in his back, and Layke closed his eyes and started walking.
Every so often there would be another shove changing his direction. It wasn’t all that easy, though. He kept on running into trees and scratching himself on thorns. He could swear that his kidnapper was making him hurt himself on purpose. He even heard some laughing from behind him when he fell into a bush.
Layke felt himself hit something hard and scratchy yet again, tearing into his grazes and bruises, and something in him snapped. He opened his eyes just a tiny bit, and the first thing he saw was a glinting blade come rushing towards his eyes. Layke barely registered his shock when it whistled past his ear.
It came again, and this time Layke had a funny feeling that its wielder wouldn’t miss. He turned his head at the last moment, making it slit the edge of his right eye and cheek. He gasped at the pain, and felt something hot trickling down his cheek.
The pain and the tree hitting his head for the eighth time made him dizzy, and Layke saw the bush under him enlarge until it covered his whole vision. Then everything blacked out.