Total Miles: 3,088.6
Near Dielheim, Germany – November 30, 2016
Chaos filled the castle walls. Men gave orders. Soldiers screamed in pain. Steel rang against steel. Shouts of panic, of courage, of death poured out of a hundred different throats.
The gates shuddered, a cloud of dust falling off the thick beams. The wood cracked and groaned again and again as the ram beat forward, knocking, knocking, knocking at the door. A line of armored men waited behind the shuddering gate, swords drawn, ready to fill any cracks with armor and steel and blood.
“Quickly child, quickly,” the Abbot said.
He almost dragged the boy behind him, leaving a wake through the chaos of the courtyard, as he reached the old stone well. A bucket hung there, still half full of water, its long rope spun around the wood beam attached to a crank.
Knock, knock, knock went the battering ram at the gates.
“I want to fight,” the boy said.
He tried to pull away, but the Abbot gripped him like iron, fingers digging into the boys arm to hold on.
“None of that,” the Abbot said. “This isn’t some story your mother told you. Those are real men with real swords outside.”
“But I can fight!” the boy cried.
“Fight?” the Abbot said. “When they get in there will be no fight, only death.”
The Abbot yanked the bucket down and shoved the boy toward it. Knock knock knock went the gate.
“Get in,” he ordered. “I will lower you.”
The boy looked hurt for a moment then climbed onto the bucket, holding the rope tightly in his hands. The wooden frame of the bucket creaked at the weight, but held. The Abbot began to turn the crank.
A crack broke the air, massive and final, like the world split in two, a before and an after. The Abbot turned for a moment and saw the gate shattered apart, the stubby front of a battering ram jutting through the splintered wood.
The boy saw it too, his head barely above the rim of the well. His eyes went wide as arrows flew through the gap, punching into the armor of the men who rushed to fill it. Screams rang out. A giant man leaped on top of the ram, the first of a flood pouring into the castle. Suddenly the Abbot grabbed him and stared into his eyes.
“Whatever happens, child, you must live, you must never give up,” the Abbot said.
Then the boy saw only darkness and the ring of light high above as the Abbot spun the crank with all his strength.
“Don’t leave me!” the boy cried out.
But he lurched down anyway, the crank spinning wildly, the light fading, the sounds of battle becoming a faint echo in the darkness.
The bucket hit water and the boy tumbled out, splashing until he found a grip on the wall. The boy could barely see in the faint light. He reached out, fumbling with his hands in the dark. A moment later, the bucket was gone, rising back to the light without the boy.
The battle ended quickly. Men poured through the broken gate like a flood, washing away the last defenders. Screams of the dying filled the courtyard. They asked for mercy. Then they went silent. The Abbot brought the bucket up and raised it to his lips.
“This is my last drink on earth,” he thought.
He closed his eyes and waited for the swords to come.
The boy stood in the water, reaching out along the walls as the last echoes of battle sounded far above. He felt with his fingers in the darkness. Stone. Stone. Stone everywhere. He spun, his search desperate. Someone would look down. Someone would see him. Stone. Stone.
Then nothing. A space. A gap in the stones.
His heart pounded. He felt his way forward, pushing deeper into a dark, open space, deeper and deeper, disappearing into the Abbot’s secret, the passage out from underneath the castle.
He looked up one last time, waiting, hoping the bucket would lower again, the Abbot with it. But nothing came. There was only the faint circle of light high above him and the boy knew he was alone in the world.
“Survive,” the Abbot’s words rang in his head.
He reached out into the darkness of the passage and crawled forward along the cold, damp stones. Deeper into the darkness, deeper until the sounds of battle faded behind him, until he couldn’t see anymore, but still he went, forward towards the far end, towards freedom, a single thought filling his mind…
“Should I eat this baguette now or wait?”
“Oh! Sorry, were you in the middle of something?”
Just staring at these castle ruins and reading the first information sign in English I’ve seen since forever.
“All that was on the sign?”
Well, no, just that there was an old well that had a side passage at the bottom.
“So you made up the rest?”
It was implied.
“…but seriously, are we eating this baguette now or what?”
“Good. Carry on.”
The boy crawled forward, feeling the weight of the rocks all around him in the darkness…
“Wait, sorry, but shouldn’t we be walking?”
“I mean, Spain isn’t going to walk to us.”
Yea, you’re probably right, let’s keep walking.
“So what happens to the boy?”
Not my problem anymore, pass a piece of that baguette.
“Here you go. Also, side note, why are we talking to ourselves?”
I have no idea.