The New Thing is coming along. I am very near the end of part 6 of 7. It is a difficult section for me to write, mostly action and little emotion. I have been doing a lot of editing rather than force myself to exceed the daily goal for new words. Oh well.
We dodged down a close. It was narrow and blocked with things here and there: coal-chutes, bundles of rubbish, children’s toys. The moon was so far set that no direct light came between the houses.
“Sir!” A voice called out. Malcolm’s fingers tightened in my cloak. His urging abated, and he pulled me backward.
“John! What, man?”
John sat slumped against a house, looking like a pile of dirty washing. His face was pinched in agony. He took his hand away from his belly to show us where soaking darkness had come through his tunic.
Malcolm swore and fell to his knees. He worked the tunic up to examine the injury. Without enough light to see what was wrong, he had to feel with his fingers. John threw his head back and sucked air through his teeth.
“It’s bad, man,” Malcolm said soberly. “Can you walk to the fort? It’s not two hundred yards.”
“Legs don’t work. ‘S as far as I could go.”
“Try again.” Malcolm pulled at his elbow, but John sat firm as a sack of flour. His lips curled back.
“Served you ten year, sir. Vouched for my brother and meant it.”
“Your brother is a good man. You’re a good man. We know that.”
“Aye.” John swallowed. His dry throat clicked. “Tell him to take the damn sword. He knows where it is.”
“I’ll tell him anything you wish.” Malcolm rested one hand on John’s shoulder and kept scrupulous eye contact. I bounced on my toes, keeping an eye out in both directions in case someone came along.
“Tell him I’m sorry about the horses. And tell him I forgive him for—“ John’s eyes slid shut. He stayed quiet long enough for my heart to sink all the way into my stomach. Then he opened them again. “Tell him s’all good.”
Malcolm’s nostrils flared. “Try to walk. Come on.”
“Nay. Just do it. I know I’m done for. Why prolong it?”
Malcolm’s fingers twitched. “Are you sure?”
“Stop talking. Do it.”
Labored breathing lifted and lowered Malcolm’s shoulders against the armholes of his jerkin. He staggered to his feet. The soft ring of steel being drawn from its scabbard hissed out in the night air.
John’s eyes rolled up to him. “One last request.”
His lip-curl turned into a savage grin. “Don’t clean my blood off afore you shove it up Sgian’s arse.”
Malcolm lowered the tip to John’s throat. “Gods bless you, man. I’ll see you in the trees.”