Chapter warning- violence and George- bashing, don't worry, he'll be fine.
Darcy staggered along blindly, propelled by a musket butt in the back and unable to see the numerous objects which seemed to rise up to trip him at every step. He heard a door opening in front of him then closing behind afters he was thrust through. He was hauled to a halt stop by a hand on his shoulder and felt someone fall against him before being pulled away with a vile curse. Darcy drew himself up proudly despite the pain in his shoulder, his bound hands and blindfold.
"Ah, the visitors," a voice said. "Take the blindfolds off."
When Darcy was able to see again he glanced around quickly to get his bearings. The brigands were gathered in what had once been the rectory of the monastery. The room was dilapidated. It had with two doors and half- heartedly boarded up windows, but also had a well-made fireplace, the remains of painted frescoes on the most sheltered parts of the walls and a mostly-intact pulpit from which the preceptor would have read passages from the bible during meal times.
Now it was decayed, with a leaking roof, smoking fire and rough furniture. A rickety table with two chairs stood near the fire place, with the remains of a meal scattered on it, and another long table ran along one wall with a collection of bits and pieces strewn along it. The room was populated by a large man dressed in ill-fitting finery, another man in slightly less fancy clothing and a collection of men in common working clothes, some cleaning muskets and other weaponry.
One of their escort deposited George's sword, knife, pistols and Darcy's pair of pistols on the table. The well dressed man picked up one of Darcy's pistols and examined it appreciatively.
"Nice," he commented, checking it was loaded then slipping it through his belt. He turned his attention to Darcy and George. "Now, I am going to assume that you are Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy," he said to Darcy. "I didn't expect to see you wandering around on the moors with a still fresh wound, but you are welcome- it saves me the trouble of looking for you."
"And you, I assume, are the dog who kidnapped my wife," Darcy said coldly. "Where is she?"
"Such a charming young lady she is too, such a flow of language!" the man said with heavy irony. "Not the type of lady I would have expected such a wealthy, cultured man such as yourself to marry," the man said. "Allow me to introduce myself, you can call me Oliver."
"Very well… Oliver. Where is my wife?"
"She is quite safe, and as comfortable as I can make her in our rough company," Oliver said. The brigands gathered around snickered. "You'll get to see her if you cooperate."
Darcy felt a cold knot forming in his stomach. Surely they hadn't… Surely they wouldn't… "What are your intentions?" Darcy asked.
"Quite simply, Mr. Darcy, I want money, lots of money, and you will provide it if you want to see your wife again."
"You will get your money, when I am assured that my wife is safe and unharmed," Darcy said coldly., "Until then we have nothing more to say to each other."
Oliver gave a snide chuckle. "You are not in control here, Mr. Darcy," he said evenly., "You don't get to say when our conversation is finished or not. There is still a lot I want to know. For instance, who is your friend here?" He turned his sharp gaze on George. "His sword is an officer's sword, but he carries a knife as well, good for stabbing people in the back. Not what you would expect an officer of His Majesty's army to carry." He picked up the knife in question and toyed with it for a moment before going over and laying the blade against George's cheek. "Your name, sir, if you please."
George looked passed past the knife and fixed the man with an unflinching gaze. "George Wickham," he said without preamble or ostentation.
"George Wickham," Oliver repeated slowly, "Once of his His Majesty's Army in Spain."
Darcy was surprised; even George looked startled that this man would know him.
"You find my knowing you strange?" Oliver asked, amused by their reaction, "I know about you. Captured by the French, exchanged for a French Colonel. Not all of us in that prison were so lucky."
"If you were in that prison, you should know I wasn't at all lucky," George said evenly. "When were you released?"
"We escaped," Oliver said, "After the officers abandoned us, we had to take matters into our own hands." Around the room, three or four men chuckled. "My lads and I made our way back to England by ourselves. We fought for the King, we died for the King, and we were left to rot in that filthy prison while officers like you were ransomed or exchanged. Well, we figured that since we were the ones doing the actual fighting, we were just as valuable as you, and by God we will take what is owed to us."
"You deserted," George said scornfully. "You owe the King your loyalty."
"We don't owe the King anything," Oliver said, "And we don't owe you either."
He nodded to one of the men behind George who then kicked him the soldier in the back of the knee. George's leg collapsed from under him and he fell to his knees. Oliver drew Darcy's pistol from his belt and went around behind George, placing the muzzle against the back of his head.
"Stop!" Darcy cried, unwilling to stand by and watch while George was murdered in front of him, or for George to try something foolish and get himself killed.
Oliver glanced at Darcy, "Why? He's just a sword for hire- why would you care?"
"I won't stand by while you kill him in cold blood," Darcy said.
"I can promise you my blood is very far from cold," Oliver sneered., "His type left us to rot. Then again," he took the pistol away, much to both his captives' relief, "I will need someone to take a message back."
"What type of message?" Darcy asked.
"Your ransom. Your wife is only valuable to you, but you are valuable to a lot more people, Mr. Darcy. I can ask ten times the ransom for both of you, and you will make sure it is paid."
"How can I make sure the ransom is paid if you hold me here?" Darcy asked.
"Easily. All I need to do is send a letter and a token that I truly have you hostage and I don't doubt that your family will cough up without any hesitation." Oliver circled Darcy. "What should I take? A finger? An ear?"
Darcy stood stoically, staring at a spot on the wall, he knew that Oliver wanted him to beg for his life, but he would not give such scum the pleasure. Beside him, George shifted uncomfortably on his abused knee. Oliver struck like a snake, slamming the butt of the pistol against the back of George's head. George dropped with a grunt and lay still.
"George!" Darcy cried, unable to stop the word from slipping out, as his friend lay so still and lifeless. He took and involuntary step forward toward his fallen friend, but he was dragged back by the men at his shoulders.
Oliver latched on instantly. "So, he is a friend. Better and better. You will write a letter, Mr. Darcy, explaining our terms."
"I will not!" Darcy exclaimed angrily.
"Are you sure?" Oliver asked. He signalled to two of his men, who dragged the semi-conscious George to his knees and slapped his face until his eyes flickered opened and he started[stared?] blankly at his captor. Oliver grabbed a fistful of George's hair and pulled his head back. He slammed a fist into George's face, then hauled him back up again. He glanced up at Darcy. "I'll give you a couple of hours to think about it. Take him away."
Two men hustled Darcy out of the room through the inner door and down a corridor. Behind him, Darcy could hear the sickening thud of fist on flesh.
My wonderful beta made a comment of "if you ruin his looks I will not be happy." Don't worry, any bruises/cuts/scapes are appropriately manly and heroic.
My history of George Wickham is pure conjecture, there was never anything mentioned about those two lost years in the book and they weren't mentioned in LiA, so I have given him a history which I hope to get the chance to write one day.
Thanks to those who have added this story to their alert list, it is nice to know its being read. If you like it/loath it/think it could be better (or worse), I would appreciate some feedback.