The Cost of Silver, Chapter One: Poor Tom's a-cold. (Shakespeare, Lear)
Kenninghall, Norfolk, spring 1627
The boy Tom huddled against the wall, hands tucked into his shirt for warmth, water dripping coldly off the high thatched eaves onto his outthrust elbows and splashing on his bare feet. He kept a wary eye on the near houses, but they were shuttered and quiet, with no man putting his head out into the wet evening.
'Twould be night soon, when the hunters'd be calling him again, trying to draw him from the chalked circle that kept him from walking into their jaws. Did they find the place he hid after dark, that circle'd do naught to keep them out. They'd pluck him from it and suck him like a marrowbone. He'd seen what was left from that.
Damn you to hell, damn you, you said you'd teach me, seven year safe you promised me and bare five of it gone. Devil take thee. The devil had, too, but his master walked abroad by night still, and he'd have Tom if Tom stepped wrong.
Damn you, you might have let me go free from the bond. Death cancels all debts, men said, but he felt the blood-bond yet, and his master would have all his blood this time.
He must finish this before dark, and make himself safe elsewhere. The door was barred, he knew, so he looked quickly at the window above him, the shutters open for what poor light was left in the day, and went straight up the wall to it, his calloused fingers and toes digging into the scabby plaster, clinging to the lath where it showed, hooking over the timbers, with a charm muttered under his breath to keep him from falling. He tumbled through the window onto the floor within before seeing that he'd reached it.
O let this not be where he waits for me.