Brissac and the others didn’t even set foot on the pavement, stopping their horses well short of the open square. Henry walked onto the plaza and examined the pillar. Small, irregular holes pierced the top like the sights on an arbalest. One faced south-southeast; beneath it a symbol had been chiseled off the stone, and the only thing left was the legend “MMCLVII.” Henry looked through. All he saw was a notch in the far mountains.
“You have twenty-eight days.” Brissac signaled the Swiss, who began to make camp.
“Exactly?” Henry returned from the pillar. “Or did you just pick the number out of a hat?”
“That’s the number of days from when you go in to when your body appears on a tree outside.”
“Oh.” Henry stared at the black walls. His heart couldn’t sink; it was already in his boots.
“All right, boy.” Brissac put his hand on Henry’s back. “In you go.”
“Wait!” Hauptmann stepped up. “Ritter, allow him at least some way to defend himself.”
Brissac stared at Hauptmann, as if amazed at the insolence; then he looked at the faces of the other Swiss, who had gathered behind their sergeant.
“Fine, then,” he said. “Give him a blade, for all the good it will do.”
Hauptmann took off his short sword and buckled it around Henry’s waist. That broke the dam. Before Henry knew it, they had loaded him down with a helmet, two dirks, a shield, three slings, a knife—“For eating with,” said Haer.
Henry turned to face the tower. Behind him he heard the ratcheting click of crossbows being cocked—in case he changed his mind. His back itching like mad, he strode out across the flagstones. The Swiss followed him a few yards in, crossbows ready. Then they stopped, and Henry walked on alone.