Chaos Calls 02: First Rescue
Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater
When they leave the column Jaycee sends two pairs of scouts ahead to make sure the way is clear. Mounted and having a light load they move far faster than the column. Two days later they meet up with the other Hero. When they enter his camp he says, “Ma name’s Jock. I’m right glad ta see you. The guards are moving about a lot.”
Jaycee replies, “Hello, Lord Jock. Lord Al has completed his rescue. He killed over two hundred of their troops in taking the farm. After we stripped it of everything worth taking we loaded the dead in the main barracks. It should have been a couple of days before anyone visited the farm, and found nothing there except death. It must’ve smelled a bit by then. We also released a few hundred prisoners they had. I’m sure they started a major search once the information got about. A few hundred people moving about, and they can’t find any trace. We made it look like we went south, so most of the trap troops should be well down that way by now.” Jock smiles. “A warning. The gate guardhouse turned out to have over twenty troops in it, not the six it seemed to have, so we’d best take care when we go in.”
“Ah, good to know about the traps. The forest is full of ‘em. We’ll go in the gate at midnight. Can’t think of a better way in.” She nods agreement.
They settle down to rest until dark. After the sun sets they’ve a cold meal, and put bags on the feet of the ponies to muffle the sound of the hoof beats. When they near the farm they find two sets of three guards watching the road, and eliminate them. Leaving Jock’s Companion with the ponies a couple of hundred paces from the farm gate they move up on the guardhouse with their crossbows ready. It takes just a moment to storm the building. They kill the officer and twenty-two guards there, most are asleep when Jaycee leads her people into the building.
While they wait for the ponies to be brought up to them Jaycee sends her people out in pairs to deal with the guards in the barns and on patrol. They return just after the ponies arrive and are picketed behind the guardhouse. Jock’s Companion stays with the ponies again, since that’s a task he’s allowed to do by the rules. The locals aren’t so restricted.
On the way to the main house they visit the barracks, to tie ropes between the door handles of the inward opening doors and the horse hitching rails in front of the barracks. That should delay any response by the troops, if there’s an alarm raised.
At the main house they climb the uprights of the verandah, and spread out beside the seven combination windows and barn doors that open on to it. The top half of the door is like a sliding window, and the bottom half is like a door. They can be opened together or as individual units, or the window can be opened part way. Some have the window as an open door while some have the window part up. In each case the person entering reaches in, and slides back the bolt or bolts holding the door shut. On Jock’s signal they all enter. These bedrooms are all laid out in the same way, and the action is very much like Jaycee’s entry.
Moving with quiet speed Jaycee pushes the door open, and darts into the room. Her partner is a pace behind her. As arranged, she cuts to the left and he to the right. There’s two people asleep in the room. A hand over the mouth, and a stab in the neck, piercing the throat and severing the spine. Within seconds they’re dying. The pair move to the door, crossbows ready. Opening the door they step out. Jaycee first and facing the far end, because this is an end room. Her triple mini-crossbow is in her hand, and ready. The two guards at her end of the hall look up just as she fires the first bolt, and the second is right behind it while she hears her partner’s crossbow fire. She turns, and fires her third bolt at the other guard at this end. All four shots are in the upper chest, and are good. The only sounds made by the guards is a low shuffle when they slide down the wall they fall against. She recovers her bolts by pulling them out of the chests of the guards while they’re still dying. Some of the men stay in the hall to cover the doors of the rooms opposite while the rest head for the big room on one side. The layout here is similar to the other farm, but a bit different, because the hall goes the length of the building.
Entering the large end room Jaycee sees it’s an office, and it has two guards sitting in chairs. She and her partner fire their crossbows, killing the guards. They go into the room, and through to the door in the middle of the right-hand wall.
They enter the room to find a man in bed with a woman tied to the bed. The man is a very light sleeper, so the noise wakes him up. Jaycee strides across the room, and delivers a blow Al taught her. He’s partway into an upright position when her hand crushes his throat. He falls back to the bed, flopping about while he chokes to death. They move to the door into the next room while one of Jaycee’s men releases the woman.
Jock opens the door, and steps in, firing his crossbow with one hand while using his sword in the other. While he kills the two guards nearest the door Jaycee and one of her troops fire crossbow bolts into the chests of the two guards on the other side of the room. A smiling Jock releases the two Damsels tied to beds, naming them when he does. The ladies smile at being rescued.
They go back through the rooms, smiling at the bodies stripped by their men behind them. Back out through the hall, and down the stairs, killing three guards protecting the front door from external attack. They go out the door, and over to the barn. By the time they’ve horses out for Jock’s party, along with a couple of pack horses ready, the men sent for the ponies have them ready to go. After a few more minutes they’re all riding out the gate, happy to be leaving the farm behind them.
Jock’s escape plan is quite simple, ride hard and fast for Bridgetown. He figures the majority of the Brotherhood troops are now to the south, so that way should be less trouble. Jaycee isn’t happy with his plan, but she goes along, thinking the Brotherhood will assume it’s Al’s escape too.
Jaycee sends scout parties ahead of them. They find and eliminate four pairs of watchers before they reach the first main crossroad. This crossroad has a group of twenty men and an officer camped at it. They stop to discuss tactics. Jock asks, “Is it safe to go round?”
Before the scouts can answer Jaycee says, “Doesn’t matter! We don’t have the time! They should be after us by now. We’ve the crossbows from the farm. Share them out, load them up, and let’s ride through, killing all we can. They know we came this way, so we need distance and time now, not secrecy.” Jock thinks a moment, then nods his agreement.
Two minutes later the sleeping Brotherhood troops at the camp are woken up by the sound of horses riding hard, and one of the two guards on duty screaming with a bolt in his belly. Jock and his men lead the way with the rest in three close columns, the Damsels in the middle with the local troops flanking them. They charge through the enemy camp with all of the fighters shooting at anything that moves. The officer is hit by three bolts when he stands up, causing him to fall back down. They don’t stop to evaluate the attack, just keep on riding hard. When the pursuit column arrives, nearly two hours behind the escaping rescue raiders, they find only three wounded men alive: two died from their wounds after the attack, and the rest died during the attack.
The rescue force keeps going at a strong pace, reloading crossbows while they ride. For some odd reason the next crossroad has no cover force, but the scouts do deal with four more sets of road watchers. They travel the rest of the night, and into the dawn.
A little after having breakfast in the saddle another break for tactical talks is held just short of the bridge across the river to Bridgetown. The Brotherhood have a blocking force set up close to the bridge so they can stop people crossing it. Just past the other end of the bridge is a similar set of defences manned by King Sid’s troops. There appears to be about a hundred or so of the Brotherhood troops at the camp beside the road. Jock swears at this, because it’s more than they can deal with.
Jaycee looks the situation over, and glances at her troops, they all give her slow nods yes. She turns to Jock, “Take your ladies and your men, work as close to the barricade as you can within the forest. We’ll attack and draw them off. When you judge it’s the right time ride for the barricade, and go over it. With luck, King Sid’s men will sally forth to give you cover while you cross the bridge. Get those ladies out of here and to safety. Just in case, please let Lord Al know what happened when you get back to your land.” Jock goes to speak, and realises there’s not much to say. He reaches out to shake her hand, and he hands over the extra crossbows they have before turning to lead his small group into the edge of the forest, going in a little way before heading toward the blockade. Jaycee and her troops check all of their weapons are ready.
All are ready. Jaycee looks at her troops again, “OK, people, here’s the plan. Keep on the move, since it’s harder to hit a moving target. Jim, Alice, Mike have ropes ready, because I want you to pull part of the barricade out of the way so Jock’s people can get out. We ride hard at the guards on duty, take them out, open the way, and then attack the camp. As soon as Jock is through the barricade we head for the forest to get the hell out of here. We’re Lord Al’s Tigers, since we’re fierce jungle fighters, just like the jungle cats he described to me. They’re almost as dangerous as we are! When the camp troops respond to the attack I want us to shout our war cries and that name. Let them know who they’re dealing with!” They all smile, because they’re now part of a fierce army of their own.
They form up in a ‘V’ formation across the road with Jaycee at their head. They do a final weapons check. All of the weapons have short cords to stop them from falling to the ground if dropped. Each of them has the first of four crossbows in their right hands, all of the crossbows are ready to fire. She gives them a last visual check, nods, raises her arm, and moves out. Just like Lord Al showed them: a few paces at a walk, then they move to a trot, a few more paces at a trot, and they turn the last curve before the enemy camp while they move up to a gallop.
The first to notice them is an officer near this end of the camp. He’s not alarmed when he first looks up. That soon changes when Jaycee puts a bolt in his chest. She drops the fired crossbow, and grabs another. Two more people at this end of the camp look up just as they pass by, and the first two troops on that side shoot them. When they near the barricade the guards there turn around to see who they are. Twelve of the twenty guards are still turning when their upper bodies act as receivers for the bolts fired at them. One of the living guards shouts out, he has a moment to do so while the Tigers drop expended crossbows to pick-up loaded ones. Within seconds of the start of the attack all of the troops at the barricade are dead. The designated troops move to the wooden barricade across the road, and lean over to secure their ropes to it. The rest turn to move about to provide cover while firing at the enemy troops in their camp just back from the road. Most were eating or getting ready for the day, so they’re still getting armed. The few already armed are being shot by the nine attackers not busy at the barricade.
Because the enemy troops in the camp are some metres away, and disorganised, Jaycee takes a moment to use just one crossbow, reloading for each shot; so do five of the others. She keeps throwing glances at the three moving the barricade. When they start to lean over to remove their ropes she yells out, “Forget the ropes! Leave them!” They untie the ropes from their saddles, and toss them on the barricade.
They turn toward the fight just as Jock’s people burst out of the forest to charge for the opening they made. They pass through while the Tigers reform for their attack on the camp. Seeing them pass through and ride onto the bridge Jaycee smiles, raises her loaded crossbow, and shouts, “Tigers, charge.” And the twelve of them charge at the group of armed troops commanded by an officer leaving the camp to attack.
Both sides fire crossbow bolts at the other. Twelve of the forty or so Brotherhood troops fall while Jaycee hears a few thud home amongst her troops. They drop the crossbows and grab another, firing while the enemy reloads their crossbows, she notices only ten enemies drop this time. Jaycee shouts, “Wounded, to the forest, now!” She has no time to look around while she fires the last of the borrowed crossbows, and draws her sword. As per one of the combat tactics taught them by Lord Al they all swing hard right while they lash out with their swords in their left hands. The swords are held out at about the same height as that of a person standing on the ground. Some of the enemy see them coming, and duck or step back while some don’t, and they have their faces or throats sliced wide open. Jaycee, yells, “Tiger’s, home!” With that command her whole force turns, and gallops for the section of the forest where they can see their two wounded friends waiting for them. One of those retreating cries out just as they enter the forest.
Just before she enters the forest Jaycee glances down the road to Bridgetown. Lord Jock and his people are on the other side of the barricade protecting the town, and he’s talking to an officer of King Sid’s Army. Mission accomplished, she smiles when she enters the forest.
The Tigers on the ponies can move through the forest as easily as people on foot while moving much faster than people on larger horses or on foot can move. They soon lose the Brotherhood troops chasing them. They turn east, and go hard for about half an hour. Turning back to the road they check it’s clear, and cross over to the other side.
Jaycee leads them north, deep into the forest. She stops to check the wounded, nothing critical. A few hours later she recognises part of the forest, soon after that she finds one of the camp sites used on Lord Joe’s trip here. They stop to rest the horses and treat the wounded properly. An hour later they’re on their way again. From there on it’s a case of being careful while they move fast through the forest on the way to join Al again.
Note: Later we learn the officer in charge of King Sid’s forces at Bridgetown uses the opportunity presented by the weakened and distracted enemy force to attack them. He eliminates all except a dozen or so Brotherhood troops. The survivors are in the forest chasing the Tigers. King Sid’s men secure a strong defensive position on the east side of the river. This change of location means the Brotherhood now has to commit a much larger force to the bridge defences, if they wish to confine King Sid’s forces to the bridge and river area. An important strategic and tactical advantage for King Sid’s Army.
I decide to take a few days rest while I think about how to get home. While doing that I take the ladies for a few rides about the valleys. The whole area is beautiful. It’s only been inhabited again for a few weeks, and already it’s starting to look like well-tended farmland. Farmhouses aren’t common yet, but the better fields are now well tended. I check out my plantings. They’ve not had long to do much, but they’re all looking good. It looks like they’ve taken the transplantation real well.
During this time a lot of the people that had intended to go back to Junction approach me about staying on here. Some have found spouses amongst the detainees we released. All of the detainees want to stay to work and live in the valleys as well. The community is already growing, and fast!
The valley defences are getting stronger each day. A few hundred extra workers really help it along. The main wall is now a fortress with a side and rear wall added. A smaller fortress is under way for the base of the fighting wall built into the rock face. Once they’re completed the wall will still be safe if the gate is breached. Lance is really making the place secure from attack from outside and inside. Joseph is training a lot of the younger detainees to be guards.
There’s enough food harvested to see them all through the rest of the year. However, the extra workers will enable them to harvest all of the crops as well as to get on with building houses for everyone.
Our lookouts report heavy troop movements along the road, all going west. The best estimates are around three or four thousand troops have moved west in just four days. The Brotherhood is really beefing up security in that area. I’ll have to rethink my plan to leave here.
The Damsels are getting restless, but they understand the need for a safe and secure trip out of the area. Only six of the people now wish to return to Junction, one of them is Jason. At dinner on the sixth night after our return I’ve the six sit with me, and we’ve a long talk about how they should get back to Junction.
Jason opens the discussion, “Al, we know it’s far too dangerous to go back right now. We’ve talked about this, and think we should be safe to go about twenty or thirty days after you leave. Also, if we stay deep in the forest until we’re down near Summer Ford we should get by most of their troops. The only issue we see is getting safely across to the other side of the river at Summer Ford or south of there. Heck, with just the six of us we can mess about in the forest for days looking for a place to cross, or even swim across, if we wish to.”
After a lengthy discussion I agree with their plan. However, they’re to count their departure delay days from when they return to Grassy Meadows after I get away with the ladies. They agree.
I call all of the combat team leaders and valley team leaders over for a strategy discussion. Once they gather around I tell them, “It’s clear we won’t be going south or west to find a safe village with a bank to leave. I won’t expose these ladies to that sort of risk. Since all of the extra troops have passed west within a few days of receiving the word of our work I figure they must be stripping the garrisons from a bit further east of us to beef up the borders. I’m sure the Brotherhood’s centre of operations isn’t near here.”
Mike interrupts, “Al, their main center’s about twenty days hard ride east of here. I know, because I was escaping from there to the west when they caught me again, and took me to that farm.”
“Good. So all of those troops have to be from the local garrisons. That means they’re now understaffed. So we should be able to head east to find a bank to leave from without too much trouble. I’m thinking we’ll take a force of thirty people as extra security until we reach a suitable town. Once at the town only the ladies, Mike, and I go in to enter the bank while dressed as soldiers. Once we enter the bank the rest of you can make their way back here. The intent is to travel deep in the forest to keep away from the Brotherhood, but to have a force large enough to deal with anything we encounter that’s small enough to be of a concern to us. A big force will stay on the road and we shouldn’t meet it, but smaller forces may be searching the forests for us. We’ll travel on ponies. Anyone got any ideas to add or questions to ask?”
They all think on this for some time before they agree it’s the best solution. The only change being the suggestion we don’t use either of the two closest banks, to further confuse the enemy as to where we are. With that we break up the meeting. It’ll be a few days while some of the ladies tailor the captured uniforms to fit us well, especially the Damsels. I spend the next few days teaching Mike how to use a sword well, because he’s got no real idea of how to fight with a sword, he has just a few things he’s picked up from films and watching others; most of which are wrong.
That night I’ve a long talk with the leaders of this new community. I start with, “Lance, Joseph, Anna, please make sure the people are well distributed through the valleys. We don’t want a bank in these valleys until well after we’ve dealt with the Brotherhood, any set of permanent buildings shouldn’t house more than about fifty people. OK?” They nod yes, as they realise the risks a bank can provide, as well as the benefits. “As for raids against the Brotherhood, conduct them when you feel safe to do so, but travel a few days away before doing so, and try to hit in the one direction.” I kneel, and draw on the ground in front of them, “If you travel out from here in many directions they can work out roughly where you are by the fact you have to be near the centre of the area involved. By making all of the attacks to the west they look for you further west or south. Where you can, shake them up by making the unit attacked vanish completely, dispose of their dead where they can’t be found. That’ll make them wonder about it, did they die or did they run away? Get the idea?” They nod again. “Above all, keep safe.”
Three days later we’re ready to leave. I smile when I lead our force out. I wanted to take about twenty or thirty people, but Jaycee insists on forty troops under her command, Mike, the three Damsels, and myself make it forty-five of us on ponies with five pack ponies of supplies. While we pass through the gateway I review all the security provisions. Jason, Jaycee, Lance, and the lookout post have a telescope each, with one left back at Junction, and I’ve one in my backpack. They’re well distributed amongst my troops. The fortress area for the ramp by the gateway is finished at ten metres. The main wall is ten metres high in front and the side, with six metres and growing at the back. The barricade is now three levels high on the sides, and a two level gateway wide enough for two ponies. Plus a single level unit in front of the wall. I can’t think of anything more I can do to make it secure that won’t take a lot of time.
We travel east for three days to bypass the two nearest towns while taking care to keep deep in the forest, we also use watercourses where we can. This time Jaycee and Jason command the force while I concentrate on the close protection of the Damsels. They do a very good job of seeing the scouts are out as far as we need, and the path is safe.
On the morning of the fourth day we’re in the forest beside where a stream crosses the road, we’re getting ready to cross once we get a report back from the scouts. The road to the east is clear for a few hours, but a force of fifty or sixty Brotherhood soldiers with five prisoners is coming from the west. Brian, the scout making the report, says, “One of the prisoners is a Damsel. They’ve a squad of five men out about fifty paces in front of the force checking the forest on each side, but no other scouts.”
I wait to see what Jaycee does. She glances at Jason, and he nods yes to her. She waves the team leaders over, “Right, we’re taking this lot out. I want all of the guards killed. We’ll use Plan Bravo Three. Jim, take your team about sixty paces up the road, and deal with the forward scouts. Paul, take your team, the Damsels, and the ponies back into the forest. Stay with them to protect them. The rest of you climb the trees on the side away from the road to set up along both sides of the road by the stream. Be ready to fire before they get here, I don’t want them alerted by any last moment movement. When the Damsel reaches the stream we open fire. Team leaders, you know your people, set them to their best advantage. Now get organised.” People scatter to go and get ready. No wasted motion, no rushing about, simple fast moves to do what’s needed while they prepare. Within a minute the ponies are vanishing back down the stream while people climb the trees. Within two minutes there’s no sounds or movements since all are in place. Mike and I are in the two trees nearest the stream. We’re all ready to fire our crossbows. We wait.
About fifteen minutes later the enemy force comes into sight. The advance group have their horses at a slow walk while looking at the forest on either side and the road in front of them. It’s clear they know what they’re doing, and are looking for signs of recent movement. But they won’t see ours, because it’s all washed away by now. None look up.
The scouts pass by. The main force comes closer. Jaycee’s troops have targets as per the plan she set out, while Mike and I are taking targets of opportunity. The Brotherhood force nears the stream. There’s a senior officer, two junior officers, fifty-five troops, three female prisoners, a Damsel, and a male prisoner. The senior officer is with the prisoners in the middle of the column with five guards around them. A junior officer heads the lead force and the trail force, each force has twenty-five men.