The snow struck Pierre's hands like cold pins, the feel on his skin so intense, it was like being scalded. It had started as rain, earlier in the evening, but become snow after an hour, all as a cold wind blew, and the puddles and the mud froze.
I am being scourged. Scourged for my sin, and my wickedness. In hell. This is hell. He grabbed his shoulders and shivered, sending a longing glance at his now doused campfire. The rains had killed it early in the evening, and all the wood was too damp to burn now. It vaguely occured to Pierre that in the forever-ago in those days before he left Joyeuse to be a soldier for the Prince, when he had merely been a potboy in his father's tavern, his father had known many ingenious ways to keep wood dry for just these sort of circumstances.
It made him wished he could recall one. Even one.
"Here's one," came a muffled voice. Pierre looked up weakly, to see the terrifying form of a Flagellant, looming over him. An arm reached out towards him. He struggled to back away, but lacked the energy "Come on lad," said the Flagellant, taking him by the arm. "Come with me. I'll take you some place warm."
Pierre felt himself lifted gently to his feet, and heard a low whistle from beside him. "Got him just in time, I reckon," came another voice. "A bit longer, another body to bury..." Another arm wrapped around him. "Come on, lad. Come with us. Come and we'll get you warm."
Pierre turned and saw his second bearer was another Flagellant. "N-no lash," he whimpered.
"No," stated the first, "no lash at all. Brother Georges has ordered us to get as many of you to someplace warm as we can. And as that is a damned sensible order, that is what we are doing..."
Pierre blinked. He hadn't been warm for so long, that the very concept seemed an impossible dream to him. "Now, sir," stated the second Flagellant, chatting merrily, "as we get you to the nice warm tent we have prepared, Brother Fist and myself will amuse you with countless witty ancedotes, for we are highly amusing fellows. Are we not, Brother Fist?"
"Indeed we are, Brother Knot," declared Brother Fist in a booming voice. "Why, this reminds me of a time back in Joyeuse, whilst walking down Poorpenny lane, I came upon a man standing there starkers. 'Good brother Flagellant,' quoth he, "good brother, I have been robbed.' 'Indeed,' says I. 'I can see that, for they have left not a stitch of clothing upon you.' And then he looks down, and he says, 'Oh, Gods, they took those too.'"
The Flagellants burst out into laughter at that, and Pierre joined in. "Amusing, no?" said Brother Knot.
"It is, it is," said Pierre.
Brother Fist nodded, as they made another turn. "There's a good lad," he noted kindly, and then warmth began to flood back into Pierre's limbs. "We found another one!" he bellowed.
Another Flagellant approached holding a steaming cup of something that smelled good. "Can he hold a cup?"
"Can you, son?" asked Brother Fist. Pierre reached out and made a fumbling attempt to grab the cup that failed.
"We'll take care of him," said the other Flagellant, taking him by the shoulder. "You two warm up, and then..."
"We know, we know," said Brother Knot with a sigh. "Back to work."
The other Flagellant began to guide Pierre to the center of the tent. "Now, lad, we're going to get some broth in you, and let you warm yourself, all right...?"
Thank you, Seven, oh, thank you, thank you, thought Pierre, as he was placed next to a small fire, amongst a large crowd of men as miserable as himself.