The Sap scouts, cavalrymen, infantrymen, and other miscellaneous soldiers, who were never heard from again, were captured alive by Rat defenders. Their feet were tied so that their motion was limited to walking, their hands were tied behind them, and their heads were covered with bags preventing them from seeing. Each soldier was tied around his waist to the soldiers in front of and behind him. They were ordered to stand up and begin walking, like a human millipede, through the narrow paths of the forest. At least the rain and the hail had stopped.
The men were fearful of what lay ahead for them: a cliff, a firing squad, or prison cages not fit for human incarceration. After several hours of walking, humiliated by dirtying themselves with their own defecation and urine, hunger slowly replaced the fear in their stomachs. The Sap captives could smell each other’s stink and it was nauseating. They stopped caring about what would happen to them. They only cared that it would end, as soon as possible. They kept walking until they felt the damp coolness of night on their skins.
They were ordered to stop walking and lay down on the ground to sleep until they would be told to wake up and continue their march. The men slept deeply, like all soldiers who never know when they will be able to sleep again.
An order smashed into their sleeping brains like a sudden fright blasting their dreams of mother-love and safety to smithereens. The men were told to get up and start walking again.
Nobody knew how long he had slept, whether it was day or night. They trudged headlong to only God knew where. Some of the men cried out to their comrades or to God.
The snake-like chain of captives was ordered to run and they ran until they were silent, needing all their concentration just to keep from tripping and falling. When they had no wind in them to cry out anymore, they were ordered to walk, to devote all their concentration to where they placed their feet. They walked, they urinated, and they defecated in their already stinking pants. They did not eat or drink. They hallucinated their captors and their surroundings. Just when they thought they could not take another step, they were ordered to stop, lay down in the grass, and sleep.
The head of the chain of Sap captives, not the leader but the first in line, was Sangor, son of Javid and Dorka. His sleep was light enough so that he heard the whisper of footfall near his head. He heard a rushing swish of air come down and snapped his head away, cringing inside his gut.
“Get up and start walking,” a strange voice sub-vocalized in Sangor’s throat, choking him because he knew it was not his own voice. Nobody else heard the voice that was so loud in Sangor’s ears. He got up awkwardly and began walking blindly. He tripped over a tree root crossing his path. The dark bag over his head nearly flew off when his face hit the packed dirt hard. Blood dripped from Sangor’s nose, down his swollen upper lip, and onto his cracked tongue. He wished that he could have felt his nose to determine whether or not it was broken but his hands were still tied behind his back.
“Get up,” the voice vibrated under his jaw. Sangor choked on his spittle but got up and continued walking, more carefully this time, using his feet to feel in front of him as much as to transport him.
He asked thickly, “How much longer?”
“Shut up,” the voice jarred Sangor’s jaw. He released his bladder and his urine stung the open wounds on his leg.
“Stand still,” the voice ordered. Sangor stopped walking and stood still. He felt warmth press through the bag and touch his ear and felt a coolness breeze by his sweaty neck. He heard a pleasant but unfamiliar warbling of birdsong above him.
Sangor still tasted his own blood and smelled his own stink. Then he felt, as surely as if he could see it, a shot-blaster pointed at his back about where his heart was. The feeling burned through him, all the way to his chest. Sangor could scarcely breathe. He knew these were the last moments of his consciousness, his life. He closed his eyes and prayed silently.