“Nobody respects a galaflarge.” Runstable laments.
I look across at him. Once again work halts as he leans on his faddystick and gazes off into the distance. Following the line of his yellow eyes I catch him watching the erection of the gallows on the purple grassed summit of the hill.
“Nobody respects a fallen galaflarge,” I amend. “Certainly no-one respects a galaflarge's apprentice.”
He fails to get the hint. I know of his youthful affair with Breta and their subsequent estrangement, but this is the first time he has shown any hint of pity for the plight of his long-running rival. He shuffles his wooden leg around so that he can face me.
“We trained together, back in the day,” he reminisces. “Whatever went wrong with me and Breta?”
The scurrige squirms in my hand, I try offering to across to him, but he pays no attention. I glance across to where I left my own faddystick, stuck upright in the cloying red mud, wondering if I will have to finish the job by myself.
“Probably you,” I tell him. “She grew tired of your laziness.”
He adjusts his old straw hat, less straw and less hat than it used to be, but still blessed protection against the burning sphere. Distant hoofbeats suggest the approach of a rider, probably the estate manager, all done up in her finery giving her the appearance of a surprised bird. The tall hedges do not allow a glimpse.
“How does one go from being the shining light to being put to death so cruelly?” He bemoans.
The top of a tall plume peeks above the trained branches, I gird myself for the attention of a vicious, barbed tongue. Runstable looks down at his remaining toes.
“By paying no attention to the job in hand.” I snap.
He fails to react to the urgency in my voice and lets loose a mighty sigh. The sound of six hooves on the cobbled road grows louder, my knees begin to tremble slightly and the scurrige makes a last desperate struggle for freedom.
“Stop messing with that scurrige and pass it here, boy, do you not realise we have work to do?” He shakes his head. “Nobody respects a galaflarge.”