Sucat sat shivering by his pile of firewood when Captain Kennard returned with the other men. It was almost dark.
Captain Kennard gave orders to have the camp set up. The first task to be done was to get the fire going because Sucat looked like he was ready to explode which would not be good for any of them. At the very least, he would get in their way and at worst he would order some beatings. The Captain vowed to himself that he would get away from here when this was done.
One of the men gave Sucat some dry clothes. He changed into the tunic and leggings, complaining about the poor quality of the fabric and how it scratched and itched his skin. The man stood by picking up Sucat’s wet clothing when he dropped them on the ground.
“Get me something to eat,” said Sucat. “Put more wood on the fire.” Sucat warmed himself while the others worked. He was handed some cold rabbit meat, an oak cake and a bladder of ale. He paced in front of the fire as he ate and drank. When he was done, he ordered another man to bring him blankets. When they were brought, he wrapped himself up and lay down.
“Keep the fire going all night,” he said. “I have had enough of being cold.” He leaned up on an elbow.
“Captain Kennard,” he said, “Have the men ready in the morning to get these bastards. I am weary of this game.”
Sucat snored during the night as the men prepared for the hunt in the morning. The men took turns sleeping and keeping guard although they did not expect any attacks from anyone except maybe some animals. Captain Kennard thought there might be bears in the cave. They could not find anyone in the area who knew anything about the cave. The only person who may have known was Heinric, Sucat’s huntsman, but he was dead by Hyd’s hand.
Captain Kennard was sure he could track Hyd and the others but it would have been nice to have some help. He was getting too old for this sort of thing. Sucat’s little feud with his cousin Hyd was a waste of time and energy. Captain Kennard knew both men for all of their lives and while Sucat was cunning in a self absorbed selfish way, Hyd was the smarter one and the better man. If the Captain thought there was any way that Hyd could escape this situation the Captain would help him and hope that Hyd would take him in his employ. Captain Kennard had enough of torturing and abuse of the innocent so that first Franck, Sucat’s father could get what he wanted and now Sucat, being well trained by Franck, was following in his father’s footsteps. The only difference between Franck and Sucat was that Franck liked to do most of his dirty work himself where as Sucat liked to watch more unless his victims were very securely tied but even then he never wanted to do anything that required him to use too much energy. Captain Kennard could never respect a man who had pain inflicted on people by others. That kind of laziness did not sit well with him.
Captain Kennard got his rest in the last shift before sunrise. He did not sleep until he knew all was prepared. There was fresh game roasting on spits over several fires, oats stewing in a pot and the men organized and ready to hunt for Hyd, Eadward, John, Stephan and Ranee. Torches were primed and stuck in the ground and several lengths of rope were knotted and coiled to be used to mark their passage through the caves so they could get in and get out again.
When the sun rose, Captain Kennard was up. He fed his horse and made sure he was tied securely to the tree. Captain Kennard had brushed his horse down the night before. He would not need the horse in the search but he would need it to get home. He had a portion of the oat porridge with some roasted rabbit and ale. All of the other men were up, packed and fed before Sucat even opened his eyes.
Sucat rose slowly, complaining about aches and pains from sleeping on the ground. He went and relieved himself in the bushes. When he got back he was handed his food to break his fast. He complained about the food’s flavoring or lack of it and its poor quality. While Sucat ate, Captain Kennard told him about his plans for finding the fugitives. He told Sucat that Sucat could be second in line when entering the cave, just behind the first torch bearer. Sucat blanched when Captain Kennard told him about entering the cave. He was afraid of the dark and small places.
When Sucat was a child, Franck, his father, would lock Sucat in the dark damp cells with chained prisoners so Sucat could know what it was like and to develop in Sucat the desire to make sure Sucat would never want to be in a cell belonged by anyone else. At first, Sucat would scream and cry to be let out, but he learned the more he cried, the longer his father would keep him in the cell. It did not take him long to learn to be quiet. Then he would huddle in a corner. Still his father kept putting him in the cells. When Sucat began harassing the prisoners who were chained and locked in with him, Franck would let him out. The more pain Sucat inflicted on his cell mate the faster he was released. When he killed one prisoner after torturing him, his father stopped locking him in the cells. Sucat was fifteen the last time he was in his own dungeons as a prisoner. Within the year, he had his father killed and Sucat was the new Baron.
“I am going back to the keep,” said Sucat. “I will prepare the cells for them and have the scaffolds ready for their hangings, if they are alive when you get them out.”
He brushed off his clothes and farted.
“Give me your horse, Captain Kennard, since you did not think to have my horse brought.”
“Your horse is lame, sire.” The Captain knew that Sucat could not ride the Captain’s horse but the Captain’s horse was well trained so if the Captain put Sucat on the horse’s back it would not unseat him. Of course, it was always possible Sucat would fall off of the horse’s back on his own and break his neck. Captain Kennard smiled at the thought.
“Quit dawdling, Captain. You are not in my favor as it is.”
Captain Kennard ordered one of his men to escort Sucat back to his hall and then return to maintain the camp while all of the other men hunted for the escapees. Captain Kennard brought his horse to Sucat and helped Sucat onto the horse’s back.
“Bring the fugitives to me before one more day passes or you will regret it with your life. I am done with this game. I just want to enjoy my newly acquired wealth.” Sucat looked down at his man. “And Captain, if my, um, darling wife should not survive her ordeal, it would be sad and I would certainly mourn her passing, but it would be understandable that a delicate flower like her would not live.” Sucat smiled at Captain Kennard.
“Do we understand each other?”
“Yes, Baron Briefadel, we understand each other quite well. I will produce the proper outcome.”
“Good. Perhaps you will be able to redeem yourself.”
“I can only hope.”
Captain Kennard tapped his horse on the rump and Sucat and his escort headed home.
Captain Kennard turned back to his men. The camp had been organized for their leaving. The captain would not leave anyone behind. The man with Sucat would come back to keep the camp site safe and ready.
Captain Kennard lined up his nine men, giving every other one a torch. They lit them with the flames from the camp fire. The men without the torches took up the lengths of rope. The first rope man would tie the rope to his waist and let out the rope as they went into the cave. As that rope was let out to its full length the next rope man would start letting out his rope. Captain Kennard hoped they had enough rope. He had no idea how far the tunnels went into the mountain. They would take extra torches and leave them along the way. If need be he hoped they would be able to follow the lights back out.
“I will go first. We need to get these people and get them back to the Baron. Capturing them and securing them are the most important things. Once we find them you need not worry about hurting or even killing any of them. The Baron will forgive us for not allowing him his usual satisfactions as long as we bring the bodies back. He will not care too much about their conditions. I want to be in my bed by tomorrow night as I am sure is the same for you all, so pay close attention and let us get this finished.”
Captain Kennard took his own torch, lit it and went to the head of the line of men.
“Let us go,” he said. He led the way into the cave.