They were going to kill him, Walter thought. Not quickly, by the sword, as he'd first feared, but by degrees. By the diet and the exercise and, of course, the Creator-forsaken rack. They were still arguing about how best to deal with his hair. When the time arrived for them to turn his locks the deep chocolate that matched Lord Rahl's own, Walter would probably be dead.
Creator, he was hungry. And every single muscle hurt.
Curled up on the mattress, under the harsh light of the half-moon, Walter wept.
After a while he tried to stem his tears. If he was going to survive this, something increasingly in doubt, he had to be able to pass for Lord Rahl. And Walter couldn't imagine Darken Rahl sobbing into his pillows, even if they were probably much nicer pillows than the ones he'd been provided with.
The door opened a crack. "Walter?"
Walter cowered, pressing himself against the stone wall behind the bed. What fresh torture was this to be?
Malray came over to him, and crouched down to look into his eyes. "I brought some more ointment. For your joints."
Malray nodded and put the jar onto the nightstand. "It will all be worth it," he promised. Malray had a stake in this too, Walter knew. He'd be lauded for finding and training Walter if this paid off, and punished for ineptitude if the plan failed. Sometimes Walter thought he hated Malray for bringing him here, but he didn't, not really. Couldn't hate him. Malray was too likeable and for some reason he genuinely cared about Walter.
That wasn't something Walter was used to.
Malray sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. "I know it's hard, but we're making progress," he said, in the easy tone of someone who hadn't nearly had his limbs torn from his body.
Walter merely nodded.
Malray reached over and Walter flinched, because he got hit in the face rather often. When he dared look, however, he found Malray's hand resting companionably on his shoulder.
"I'll look out for you," Malray said. "I promise."
Walter nodded again, but this he believed.
Malray stood. "We'll start again tomorrow. In the meantime try to get some sleep. Remember –"
"Imagine myself by the sea," Walter said, reaching for the ointment.
Malray smiled warmly. "That's it."
Walter returned the grin. Maybe he would survive this after all.