Chaos Calls 02: First Rescue
Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater
I arrive in the bank and call for my lock box. I take care to select the weapons and gear I’ll need for this mission on top of what I’ve got with me. I leave in it a couple of the extra items I brought but won’t need this time. I’m heavily loaded: two swords, six knives, bo-shuriken, hat, hanbō, cape, back pack, first aid kit, money pouch, the mini-crossbow loaded and ready for use in my left hand. I’ve my armour on and the rest is set for easy access. I’m ready to face the world of Chaos
After closing the box I leave the room and I go through to the main bank chamber. The teller in the cage nods a greeting when I pass through the main room. Exiting the bank I start to take shallow breaths. No one in their right mind takes deep breaths in any town or city in Chaos. The stench is real bad because the street also acts as the sewerage system.
Walking through the town I see and wave to a few people I know from my last trip. They wave back. The relaxed atmosphere of the town tells me the Brotherhood hasn’t had an impact here, despite extending their area of control since my last visit. I enjoy the nice walk out to Jay’s Farm, and I’m nearly get killed when I arrive.
Passing by the barn I’m knocked down by Jaycee when she rushes out to grab me. I recognise her in time to avoid neutralising her, which is why I’m off balance and she’s able to knock me down. I guess she’s glad I’m back. She looks to be a little older than when I left, then I remember about the time difference and I wonder how much time has passed.
In a few minutes I’m sitting at the dinner table while the family starts lunch a little early. In the course of the conversation I learn it’s been almost a year since my last visit. Jaycee, Jason, and Joseph are ready for another adventure, as well as the next two: Jane and Jack. David and Ami now live on the farm with David doing some work on various farms. I never do work out what it is he does. They’ve extended the farm into the forest behind them a little more. However, they still have more than enough people to work what they have without the five eldest children. I’m told there’s another fifteen older children from the surrounding farms who also wish to see more of the world.
While we eat and chat I think about my long term plans. After the fine meal I ask, “Can you guys round up all the older children who wish to see more of the world or go on an adventure? I wish to speak to them as a group, either this afternoon or tonight. I’d like at least one of their parents here as well.” The five teens nod yes, and they dash off as soon as they can after the table is tidied up following the meal.
Jay and I go to his smithy to build up the fire in the forge. I want to melt some of the steel to try to purify it with the new techniques I’ve learned. I smile when I see my old moulds are still on hand. We build the fire up then I get out the bag of high carbon sand I brought along. I’m sure Mac knew what it was and what I want it for, but it’s not a weapon in itself, so I was allowed to bring it along.
Opening the bag I show the dark sand to Jay as I say, “Sand like this is high in a component called carbon, it’s good for making better steel.” I go on to explain the process while I add sand to the steel we’re melting in the two crucibles. While we ready the moulds for use I often return to the steel to stir it, skim impurities off, and add more sand. By the time the kids return with a large crowd late in the afternoon I’ve the steel ready to pour a set of steel bo-shuriken in my old moulds and arrow heads in new moulds. Alice comes out and does her job of accurate pouring without spilling a drop. We leave the moulds in the old style forge to cool after heating the forge and setting a fire to keep it warm. I explain about the slow cooling giving a better grade steel. I also have Alice pour steel into two long bar moulds I line with carbon sand. I sprinkle more sand on top of the steel bars before we put the poured moulds in the main forge.
Jay drags a small cart out of the barn for me to stand on while I talk to the crowd of teens and adults. They gather close when they see I’m ready to talk. Raising my voice I say, “I know most of you know me as the person who helped Lord Joe last year. I’ve been promoted and I now do some of the same work Lord Joe does in helping people. For some time to come my focus will be on stopping the Brotherhood from expanding and doing what I can to eliminate them. The task isn’t going to be easy, nor will it be quick. It’s also very dangerous because they’re out to trap and kill Lord Joe and others like him. My job will be easier if I can get some quality help like Lord Joe and I had on the last visit. I’m told there are volunteers to help. I wish to make clear the dangers involved in helping us. Those who go with me can get hurt. I expect some to die and others to be seriously hurt, permanently hurt. This is a war, and wars are never nice. I’ve got many other responsibilities, but I’ll make attacks against the Brotherhood when I can. This is the first time I’ve been able to get back since my first visit, so don’t expect to see me often. I wish to build a base of operations very close to where the Brotherhood are at the moment. There are grave dangers in this because the Brotherhood will attack and kill all they find there, if they learn of it.” I stop for a sip of water while I check the crowd. I see concern and interest, but no fear. “I’ve found a place for my base. It used to be farmed, but it isn’t now. It has a very narrow access point that makes it easy to defend. I’ll need people to establish and run this base. They’ll build houses, raise crops, look after stock, and sometimes help me attack the Brotherhood. What those who help me get out of this is the satisfaction of helping me, the chance to see more of the world while on an adventure, and the choice of land to farm in the valleys I’ve found. I’ll organise the initial livestock when I can. Getting to the valleys will be very dangerous because we have to travel through lands well patrolled by the Brotherhood. I expect we’ll have to fight them to get there. You’re all here because you’ve said you may be interested or your children have said they’re interested. Those who wish to take the risks should stay to talk with me. Those who don’t should leave. Thank you.” I give a small smile and get down from the cart, then they start to talk to each other. A few adults speak to teens, nod yes, and leave. Most of the teens stay, so do some of the adults. As individuals, or small groups, they walk up to talk to me about what they can do and what they want to do. Some who wish to go to set up new farms are prepared to fight their way there and to fight to protect the farms. Others wish to go on an adventure to fight the Brotherhood. I’ve Jay and Alice help me sort them out due to their skills and the weapons they have. Arrangements are made for them to go home to get clothes and weapons so they can come back to practice with us. After an hour and a half they’re all gone, and we can go back to our smithy work.
Back to Work
The bars are ready for working on so I extract one to beat on it. About five hits into it I’m elbowed out of the way and Harry, the town’s best blacksmith, takes over while he says, “How do you want this done?” I explain to him the final shape I want. I also tell him how I want it beaten and folded back on itself for thousands of layers first. He’s surprised by that, but he sets to and beats the metal. I also explain the need to often place it back in the forge for forge welding. He nods at the instructions.
With Harry working on one sword outer layer I extract the other bar and lay it in the forge to keep it hot for Harry while telling him it gets the same process. I pour a softer steel into the two long bar moulds. These don’t get as much steel because they need to be thinner rods. With that done I go to mixing sand and steel in the crucibles to improve the carbon content. Harry smiles when I explain what it is I’m doing and what it does. He likes the idea of having stronger steel.
I’m just about to leave that for a while when Harry decides he’s done enough to this bar for now, so he starts on the other one. I leave him to it while I go to get some wood and leather to make telescopes.
When I look at what wood is available for me to use I find lots of light wood boards to use. I soon find it’s not easy to cut circles in boards with the local tools, but I manage to do it. The trouble does make me change my mind on how to make the telescopes. I end up with two wood boxes 260 mm long that slide inside of each other. The end pieces have circular holes cut in them and the lenses are attached to them by having an end piece on each side of it. Wood frames provide the rail for the next part to ride on while they hold the leather to block out excess light. I work on them for the rest of the day and into the night. Everyone watches me work at night, including Harry because he’s staying here for a few days.
In the morning we check on the metalwork projects and I do what’s needed there before leaving Harry in charge while I get on with making the telescopes. The fifty-six people going with us turn up to practice their fighting skills. I often stop my work to provide advice and instruction. By mid-afternoon I’ve got the six telescopes ready so I put them in my pack out of the way. I check on the metal work, and again leave Harry to it. After checking the way the moulds in the old forge are cooling I move them further from the heat. They’re almost ready to take out. I explain the slow cooling process to Harry, and how some of the best smiths in my home city told me their secrets after I promised not to pass the secrets on near where they work so there’s no competition. I get another smile from him. I bet the quality and price of his metalwork goes up after this.
When we all stop for the evening meal I call Jay over to show him how to use a telescope. Naturally, everyone else has to come to watch as well. Thus they all hear me explain how it works and what it does. A few don’t believe me until they look through it to see things far away. I give one to Jay to use so he can see who’s coming from further away.
The next morning is the final cooling of the new bo-shuriken. I work with Harry on the new swords and I try out the new longbow that’s been made for me. I leave Harry to work on the steel bars. In the afternoon I’m sharpening the new bo-shuriken on the grinding wheel which has been improved a lot. I replace the bo-shuriken of Jaycee and myself with the new hard steel ones then I put the old ones in for melting.
After we make some more mini-crossbows Jaycee, Jason, and Jay spend the day checking the ponies and getting them ready for the trip. I spend the evening telling Harry how to make the swords for me.
We’ve a large breakfast. This is my fourth day on Chaos and I need to be heading out today. The travel and camping gear was packed by the teens yesterday, so we need only put the packs and saddles on the ponies. By the time that’s done all of those going with us are on hand and we’re ready to leave. Many of them have family here to see them off. We form up and ride off going south before we turn east. I plan to cross the river well to the south then to head north-east toward our target.
For six days we head south and meet no one along the way. I hadn’t noticed until the third day, but our group numbers sixty-six and twenty of them are only interested in setting up a new farm. Mid-morning of the seventh day we reach the road we have to take to head east. Stopped at the road is a column of King Sid’s soldiers: an officer and thirty soldiers.
The officer, I’m not sure of his rank, asks, “Seen anyone of interest in your travels?”
I smile while I pull out a wooden whistle and I give a modulated blow on it. During the first day I established a routine of whistle blows with my scouts and I just used the call ‘to return.’ While I wait I tell the man, “Not that we’ve seen. But my scouts will be back in a moment and they can tell you of anything they saw off the road. They only report to me about people who may be in a position to cause us trouble.” He smiles and we chat about things in general for a few minutes.
The scouts return and the only point of interest is by Jack. He says, “I saw a camp off to the west of the road, about fifty paces back from the road. It’d been used in the last day or so, but it was empty yesterday afternoon. The signs showed a group of about fifteen people used it on a regular basis and had been there until sometime yesterday. They left there heading south on the road.” The officer thanks him, and starts talking to his senior troops while we get going. He gives us all a close inspection while we go by. Sixty odd people, most very fit teens, all heavily armed. He has to be worried about what we’re up to.
We see no one during the rest of the day or the next. Our rear scouts report the army column following us, but well back. I expected that.
Mid-morning of the second day after turning east Jaycee, our senior lead scout, races back to report. All of the scouts work in pairs, just to be safe. If they’ve something urgent one stays to watch while the other reports back. At our current slow rate of travel we’re about an hour from the town of Summer Ford. It’s where we expect to cross the river. Jaycee reports on a force of the Brotherhood in the town causing trouble.
Summer Ford Shoot Out
Jaycee says, “Lord Al, it looks like a hundred or so are in the town. They’re gathering everyone together in the town market area.”
After a few questions and answers I give orders, “Jaycee, you take teams Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Jason, take teams Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, and Hotel. Co-ordinate your operations as I want both forces to slip into the town to get set to hit the enemy from the north and south at the same time. Jack, ride back to tell that army officer what we’ve found and ask him to assist us because we’re attacking the Brotherhood to free the town of them. If he rides hard he should arrive just as it gets interesting. Joseph, you ride with me. Jane, take everyone else about fifty or sixty paces into the woods here, find a place you can defend yourselves, and keep a good watch. Protect our people and our supplies.”
I’ve been training them to fight in five person combat teams since we started. Now I’ll see how well they work for real. They scatter to gather their people and move out. Forty-one to ride up the road to picket their ponies in the forest before entering the town, as the scout watching the town is part of Alpha team. Jack back along the road while Joseph and I take a medium pace walk down the road to give the others time to get ready and the rest time to fade into the forest while hiding their trails.
Joseph and I don’t hurry, nor do we dawdle, but we do allow the others lots of time. So it’s about thirty minutes later we near the edge of Summer Ford. I’ve got Joseph back behind me because my armour is better than his. These ponies are trained to follow if we walk in front of them, so when the town is in sight we dismount and lead the horses in. This gives us more options for the coming fight. Our crossbows are loaded and hanging from the saddles in plain view. Our bows are over our shoulders ready to be slipped off and used with our quivers of arrows strapped to our left legs and hidden by our long capes, so are our mini-crossbows. We’re ready for combat when we walk into the town.
There’s no one in sight for the first few houses. Passing the third one we take a curve into the main part of the town. We see fifty or sixty townspeople in a bunch in the middle of the market area while a large ring of Brotherhood troops surround them as an officer reads to them.
One of the soldiers sees us and points us out to the officer. He says something and five soldiers head our way. I look around, but I can’t see any of our people. This is good as if I can see them the enemy can too. The soldiers reach us and spread out in a line with their swords in their hands as the middle one, a bit older than the others, says, “Drop your weapons and join the crowd. This area now belongs to the Brotherhood.”
I look up at him while I reply, “Is that the same Brotherhood of cock suckers who infest the forest near Bridgetown?” All sit back in surprise we don’t just do as told because we’re outnumbered. Before they can react I’ve my mini-crossbow out and shoot the talker in the face as a threat is an attack. I angle left and get the one beside him then the next when he starts to reach for his crossbow. Joseph is no slacker: he has his mini-crossbow out and firing with me. He only has to shoot two so he grabs the reins to pull the ponies to the side then he takes both crossbows off the saddles while I finish the fifth here and move to the other side.
The officer and the troops are starting to respond to our little action when I move clear of the horses of the dead soldiers. Slipping my bow off my shoulder I drop to my right knee, and bring my bow around. This bow is bigger than what the locals generally use, so it’s easier to slip off than theirs are. My kneeling position places my quiver of arrows just in front of where I’m using the bow, which I’m holding at an angle. The left end is almost on the ground while it slants up to my right at forty-five degrees. Joseph is using his normal bow in a similar way, just like I taught him to do during the days since I arrived in Junction this time.
The officer is facing me and issuing orders when I take aim. I put an arrow into his chest. He looks shocked the arrow has penetrated at this range. He drops the paper and falls over sideways. As if it’s a signal forty two arrows fly in from the sides and forty-two soldiers cease all interest in the proceedings when their chests are penetrated by the arrows. Joseph and I are firing at the dozen troops heading our way. There were twenty who started this way, but a few fell with the first volley. The rest are looking around for their attackers. In the seconds it takes for my second and third arrows to reach their targets all of the soldiers heading toward me are falling off their horses with arrows in their chests or backs and all of the soldiers, except six others, are in the same situation.
The last six are riding hard for the far end of town when two teens step out of an alley to fire at them from behind. Only three soldiers live to splash their way out of the river on the far side to charge into the forest. I watch while Jaycee has a quick word with her team leaders then she vanishes. A moment later she reappears with one team on ponies and they head off after the escapees. The townspeople are still milling around, stunned by the sudden turn of events. Jason directs the teams in the clean-up with some removing arrows from the fallen, others dragging the dead into a central point, and others gathering the horses together.
Just the way a good fight should go: short, sharp, and devastating for the enemy. I gather the enemy horses near me and lead them to the team picketing the rest while Joseph leads our ponies over. About a minute later I’m examining the officer, and I now understand his shock at being shot with an arrow. He has on armour, a two layered stiff leather coat. The arrows I use are the new ones with a steel bodkin head: a long narrow triangular steel point designed to penetrate mail armour, so the leather was easy for it. His armour would have defeated the usual wood-pointed arrows used by most people here. He has nothing else of interest so I strip him of the armour because a patch over the puncture will enable one of my assistants to be better protected.
While I strip the officer a man limps over to me, it’s obvious he’s had a severe beating. He stops and says, “Thanks for the help. Who are you? And what do you know about these people?”
I look at him as I ask, “King’s Representative?” He nods yes. “I’m Al and these are my friends. We’re moving to set up home in some disused farms I know of.” I wave at the dead, “These people call themselves the Brotherhood. They’re associated with the Slavers who started the big war a few years back. I’ve run into them before, up near Bridgetown and Junction. They’re not nice! They kill, rape, murder, and enslave all who disagree with them. So we now kill them on sight.” He nods again. “I expect an army force to arrive soon. We met them the other day. Since then they’ve been shadowing us to see what we’re up to. I sent a man back to tell them what’s happening. They’re about an hour behind us and should be here soon.” Another nod then he walks off.
About half an hour later we’re in the process of assessing the booty when the army column rides into town, ready for combat. Seeing it’s all over they spread out to keep an eye on us while the officer speaks to the King’s Representative. I give them time for a private chat before going over to talk to them.
When I approach the officer asks, “You knew I’d follow, didn’t you?”
“Yes, it was the smart thing to do with a well-armed force like ours. You didn’t know us and you were worried about our intentions. So you do the right thing and watch us. I don’t want to be telling you your job, but I think you need to let your higher ups know what happened here and ask them to post a strong force in this area until the Brotherhood are dealt with. A few got away, so they’ll be back with more. Even if my people chasing them get them others will be along. Like the Slavers, they expand until they’re stopped.”
He nods. “I agree. That’s why I’m sending a small patrol back for more men and I’m staying here until a relief column arrives. I think we may need to go after these people.”
“I couldn’t agree more, which is what we’re up to. I know of some disused farms inside the boundary of the area the Brotherhood controls at the moment. We’re on our way there to set up a base of operations. Once it’s secured we’ll conduct raids against the Brotherhood until they’re no more. We’ll also secure the area to make sure our new farms are safe. I’ve fought the Brotherhood at Bridgetown and Junction with Lord Joe. They aren’t good fighters or soldiers. They’re good at fighting civilians but not effective against a trained militia. The biggest danger is their numbers. The force here was about a hundred, and that’s a small unit for them.” The officer and the King’s Representative are shocked by the force sizes. “This isn’t a normal banditry group but an organised army, like the Slavers were.” Their faces are grim when they walk away.
About an hour later we’ve cleaned up the site, the dead are off to feed the pigs, and much of the booty is traded for food. The locals have no need for horses and we’ve no need for them at all, so I look for the officer.
Finding the army officer in the tavern having a drink I sit down. He pours me a cup from his pitcher of watered wine. I say, “Thanks,” and take a sip. “I’ve got a problem which I think you’ll like solving for me.” He raises his eyebrows when he turns to me. “We ride ponies because they get through the forest with less trouble. We’ve no need for the ninety odd horses we’ve won. If I leave the horses and their tack with you will you see the value is credited against the taxes of the farms at Junction.”
He smiles, “Yes, that I can do. We’re always in need of more horses. This will save us having to chase down and buy some, for a while.”
I finish my cup and leave. Jason sent someone back for the rest of our group and all are now ready to leave as we had our lunch while cleaning up. Jaycee rides in with the three escapees. I have her leave them with the officer to sort out while we form up and ride out.
We’re a happy lot when we ride out of Summer Ford. Our first real fight as a unit and we all did our jobs. We all now know we can depend on each other to do the right thing. Sure there were a few mistakes: there always are in a combat, especially with green troops. But those mistakes were all minor and they won’t happen again. Now we’ve all got a lot more confidence in our ability to deal with the Brotherhood.
A day east of Summer Ford we turn north and we start masking our trail by dragging brush behind the last of the ponies so the road won’t look like a large group went by. Two days later we reach a wide stream crossing the road at an angle and we head up it. We drag the brush well upstream and drop it to the side where it won’t be found. This takes us deep into the forest without showing where we left the road.
After another two days we leave the stream to travel north-east for four days, again masking our trail. We reach and round the edge of a steep cliff to turn east to travel along the cliff face until the rocks are replaced by dense scrub. That night I check my maps. The next morning I let everyone have a rest while I head out on foot. By lunchtime I’ve found the access point and worked out how to enter it without us making it obvious. I’m back at the camp by mid-afternoon.
The next day is an easy trip to an entry point through the scrub. It’s well concealed due to the bushes on the sides growing back across it. The original width is big enough for a wagon, but we’re having to take care getting the ponies through the small gap that’s now left. Down the path, turn near the rocks, and go behind the fallen rocks. A little further in we go around a large rock and into a cave. It’s a little wider than a wagon at the entrance but opens out to three wagons wide just inside it.