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20th July; A Rifleman's fate

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20th July; A Rifleman's fate

Post  Keiju on Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:25 pm

Mayden was last seen here.




In a way, he supposed the outcome of this whole mess was a relief. It was an end to a series of stupid mistakes and nasty happenings, and if he was honest, he was glad to have it all resolved. There was more than an even share of disgrace involved, of course, but in cases like this, disgrace was the whole point. He sighed and set the pen down. There were several lines of crossed-out words on the paper, and he gave up trying to put his chaotic thoughts down into writing. Nothing he could say was going to make this any easier to bear.

Mayden gazed at the blank canvas wall of the tent that was his prison cell and wondered how long it would take for news of all this to reach home. The shock and shame of it was likely to kill his father. A wry smile turned the corner of Mayden's mouth up. Old Tom had been dead right all along. Serving one's King could very easily become a terrible thing. At least his father had only lost his leg. Living to tell the tale of one's service was somewhat important and Mayden was not going to be that lucky.

He brushed a hand over the thin linen of his shirt, feeling the lump of bandages underneath the fabric. The bandages would be removed in the morning. His wound was nowhere close to being healed but the linen and cotton dressings would be an impedient. Nothing but his shirt was going to be between him and the lads who'd face him down the barrels of their rifles tomorrow morning. Mayden would, naturally, be denied the honour of wearing his regiment's jacket when he was led out of the tent. As far as the army was concerned, he had forfeited any claim to having a regiment when he'd deserted.

With another sigh, he flopped backward onto the hard ground and shoved his hands under his head. There were a few hours to go before dawn. A few hours yet to contemplate the state of his life. A series of idiotic choices had led him to this. The desire to help a mate had led him to this. The two were impossible to separate. Instincts and common sense didn't always agree, did they? Mayden had trusted his instincts, for the most part, so he reckoned that he deserved this fate. It didn't make the fear any less, of course. He was bloody terrified, if he was honest, but at the same time he felt he was ready to face what was coming.

The heavy tramp of feet outside the tent signalled the arrival of his escorts. Though he had not slept, Mayden was hard-pressed to tell where the intervening hours had gone. Not that it mattered. The time had come. He got to his feet and dusted himself off. They might deny him the green jacket with the black facings of his regiment, but he'd go out there firm and fearless. Like a Sweep should. A grim-faced sergeant ducked under the tent flap and regarded Mayden for a long moment before beckoning him wordlessly out.

Mayden hesitated only for a moment before stepping forward. This was it. His stomach fluttered briefly, but his apprehensions had largely past. There was no more space for fear of what was coming. In fact, he felt readily accepting of it. Not like there was any other option. Two redcoated privates fell in on either side of him and, with the sergeant leading, the stiffly silent procession set off. Mayden found that his only thought was of home. That little tavern in Covent Garden which his father had worked so hard to establish. Never being able to return there was perhaps his only lasting regret.

Then he put even that thought from his mind. Nothing to do now but get on with dying. That, at least, was not very far off. He could see the place it would happen now. Right. That was it, then. He'd face it down like a Rifleman, because that was the only thing left to him. All the same, Mayden closed his eyes briefly and let out a long, slow breath. He was a Rifleman. Whatever the army said, that alone was worth having lived for.
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