Chaos Calls 03: the Dragon Dilemma
Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater
The next morning I’m just finishing breakfast when Lance, Joseph, Jaycee, and a dozen others I recognise as the various leaders here walk up to talk with me. I introduce them to those sitting with me, which is a large group. Together we’ve about thirty people sitting down having a drink in a single group while we chat about many things.
I send Kira to get several things for me from one of the wagons. She’s soon back with them. Taking out my telescope I hand it to Joseph while saying, “Have someone take this up to the lookout and exchange it for the one up there, please.” He turns, motions another over, and passes it on with the same orders. They leave at a fast walk.
I address the group as a whole, “In the wagons we’ve a number of pigs, chickens, and sheep. These are mine but they’re to be breeding stock to get herds going here. So assign them to someone to look after them. Share them around when the young are old enough to be farmed out.” I get a few smiles. Pointing at Lin and Zhu I tell them, “Lin and Zhu are specialists in the care and use of rice and bamboo. Please listen to what they have to say and do as they tell you about the care and use of those plants. Bamboo is a very useful wood.” Many happy nods. “Some of you will recognise Ian, Pat, and Troy. They’re now fully qualified and have all the tools they need, so they’re the settlement’s carpenters. Please help them to set up in an appropriate place. The same for George and Sam because they’re our blacksmiths and they’ve all the tools they need. These specialists should improve the living standard here.”
After taking a break for a long drink I continue, “Warren is here to breed quality cavalry horses for me. He’ll also train them. Carla is here to train troopers how to ride those horses when fighting the enemy as it’s different to normal riding. They’ll need helpers, and if you’re being trained by them listen carefully to them. Both are experienced fighters and have been in many battles. They’re also to teach people combat tactics.” Looking at one of the young women who’d helped me with the plantings on the last visit I tell her, “I’ve some more plants for you to plant. I’ll also want you to help Zhu with planting more bamboo and to show him where the current plantings are. I hope you’re harvesting some of the herbs and spices by now.”
Nancy smiles, “Yes, Al, we’re all enjoying some of the spices from the first planting. We’ve also expanded the plantings.”
“Good. I’ve some good ropes in the gear I brought so they can be used as required. They’re for community use. Now, how have things been going?”
Lance is first and he says, “The crops have all been good and we’re all well fed. Plus, we’ve a lot stored in the caves for trade, when we can. It’s a good thing there are so many different grains growing here or we’d be sick of them by now.”
I laugh while I reply, “Amongst the extra stuff for planting are some vegetables and fruit tree seedlings. They should add some variety when enough of them are growing.”
He continues, “Everyone has a well-made house now, but I’m sure we’ll have lots of work for carpenters. We’ve a big need of a blacksmith, so it’s good they’re here. We’ve also built you a nice house for when you stay here. Jaycee insisted it should have a dozen bedrooms, so it does and each has a bed. So you should be comfortable there tonight. Jaycee also insisted we build some barracks for troops. We thought we had too many, but now I see we’ll need more. The main defences are finished and we’re very secure. I doubt anyone could take this place now.”
“Good, because that was needed before we moved to stage two of development. I was hoping you’d be ready for it.”
Lance nods at Jaycee and she says, “We’ve been doing as you said and only raiding the Brotherhood forces to the west or south of here. We’ve ambushed several columns on the roads and taken out a number of small outposts. We had to let some columns go by because they were too large for us to attack. But we’ve used hit and run tactics against a few of their larger forces. In each case we did as you said and started on the officers. I have seen quite a few of the soldiers run off into the woods when no sergeant or officer was near them. When we can we kill all in a patrol and hide the bodies well. I’ve lost count of the number of their dead, but when we can’t kill them all we make sure they know we’re called the Tigers. We’ve been so successful attacking them they’re building a major base at the junction of the Southern Road with the Bridgetown Road. It looks like they’ve got one or two thousand troops based there. They ride out in patrols of a hundred to two hundred strong, or bigger. So we can only snipe at them.”
“Interesting. I must look at that. As of this moment you’re formally the Tigers Infantry. You operate as mounted infantry. You ride ponies to get to the combat area then fight on foot. One of the things you’ll need to work with Carla about is how to integrate your infantry with the cavalry so you can be effective in combined operations. I hope you’ve been training people to take over leading the infantry force?” She nods yes. “Good, I want to expand the force and split it up into more units.” I go through the items Kira brought me and pull out five bags about as long and as wide as my arm. I hand them to her, “These are what we call ‘unit colours.’ They identify the unit. These five are for the infantry, Carla has the five for the cavalry. These have their poles in sections that join together so they’re very easy to carry through the forest on the ponies.” She opens one, and smiles when she sees the bright coloured guidon we’ve made for her infantry. The only difference between these and the cavalry ones is they have 1st Inft instead of 1st Cav. I’ve only done up colours for five troops of each. All are from A company of their force. I want to have ten troops of sixty-five troopers in each company. So it’ll be a while before I get to B company. I don’t have troop numbers on these. When we get that far we can have them carry troop pennants as well.
We sit around for an hour talking about what’s happened since my last visit. I’m very happy they’re all in good spirits and feel safe here. I learn they’ve made several trips back to Junction for more things and to take some grain etc. back. But not much because it had to be what they could carry out on pony back. While we talk I upgrade the rest of the telescopes and hand them back so all are now in the smaller cases.
When we’re warned lunch isn’t that far away I decide it’s time to talk about the next parts of the development. Taking out a knife I draw a rough map of the area on the ground. There’s only two major roads in the local area: the one to Bridgetown and the one that goes south, a few major farm areas, four small towns, the mountains and a few streams. I place my knife on the town that’s two to the east, Barley, and say, “Barley is going to be the initial border town between us and the Brotherhood. I want to eliminate all of their forces and bases west of Barley. I also want to destroy any force they send west of Marley, the next town east of Barley. I want them to learn they’ve lost control of this area. When we have more trained cavalry and infantry troops available we’ll move further east to take out their forces and bases until they’re no more.”
They all gulp and Jaycee says, “That’s a pretty tall order, Al. We’ve only got your sixty or so cavalry and my ninety infantry. They’ve got a few thousand.”
“I never said it would be easy. But we won’t be facing them in a straight on fight where they have any advantages. I do expect we will have losses through wounds and death because we can’t fight a war without losing some people. But we can take them out. On the way here we met a force of five hundred troops at Summer Ford. We killed most of them and took over a hundred prisoners. I expect to do something similar here. In combat we’ll concentrate on officers and sergeants first. That destroys their control. After the battle we’ll take prisoners and excess gear to Bridgetown or Summer Ford to hand them over to King Sid’s people. The captured officers and sergeants will be killed. Captured troops will be placed on a five year indenture bond and put to work. That way we don’t have to worry about controlling them and King Sid gets reimbursed for some of the costs of dealing with this mob. Oh, any officer prisoners or recent dead near Two Sheaf go to Jake to deal with.”
I stop for a sip then continue, “Carla and Warren will help develop combat tactics. I’ll help deal with the forces at Bridgetown and this new fort before I go. Now back to expansion. I want a small village built at the base of the cliff. It’s to have a secure area where people can fall back to if attacked. I’ll let you lot talk about it and decide if the entrance to the access cave is within the defensive area or not. There are advantages and disadvantages for both options.”
Lance interrupts, “What are they, Al?”
I give him a quick glance because I didn’t want to be interrupted, but now I have to deal with this. “If the cave entrance is within the defensive area then should that fall you can retreat back into the cave and back here. The down side is you can’t have anyone in the village who is not from here. If the defensive area doesn’t cover the cave the attacking troops should split and you have less to deal with down there. You can also have strangers in the village as they’ll withdraw into the defensive area but not back to here. I’d suggest a defensive area that’s got water and food stores so it can stand a siege, but not the cave entrance. That way they have less reason to go all out to destroy it. They should leave it aside. It also means you can build a smaller facility. The bulk of the village will be outside this and vulnerable, but you can’t have it all.” I stop for another drink. “Now, as I was saying, I want you to cut the trees to make a good road running from the village to the corner of the mountains and then as straight as possible to the junction with the road to Summer Ford. That should then become a junction for the road here, the Southern Road, and the Summer Ford Road. Build an inn there and start a small village. If you do it right people will think the road to here is just a track to get around the back of the inn. Another road from the village below to the junction of the Southern Road and the Bridgetown Road, again an inn and small village with the track to the road here not being blatant. Two more roads need to go from here, one straight out to the Bridgetown Road and another in a line to come out at the bend just beyond Marley. In each case, once the road is finished put up an inn and encourage the start of a village. Clear land for farms if you have to. Now you can do a lot of the initial work for the road by clearing the trees and stopping a couple of hundred paces short of the existing roads. That’ll give you some high speed roads to get about in the forest unseen.”
Carla grins, “Hell, with them mostly made but stopping short they won’t know they’re there and we can move between places very fast. They’ll have no idea how quick we can move through the forest.”
I give her a glare, “Exactly.” I turn to Warren, “How long before you interrupt me?” He grins as he shakes his head no. “Right. The cut trees will give you a lot of wood to work with up here. The roads, even when they stop short, will make it a lot easier for you to get stuff to and from the markets to the south and west. What I envision is we’ll end up with a nice new community carved out of the forest below us: fifteen or so farms, an inn, several shops etcetera. The same is what I see as the long term result at each of the new junctions. But the initial roads are needed for fast troop transport. In ten or twenty years I see the town below as being a major centre for the trading of the crops from here. The shops and bank will be down there and you’ll keep this farmland area safe and secure. This place is to be my core citadel and the town below will be the centre of commerce for the area. With the other new towns being offshoot operations. By then most traffic from the south to the east will be cutting through here because it’s shorter. So keep all of that in mind when you plan the town below. This is your chance to plan and build a town as you think it should be done. But get those trees cut and the roads made most of the way so you can race troops through there. The way you’re set up here now I’ve got no concerns about your ability to hold off the whole Brotherhood army, should they come calling.”
They all smile at my closing comment and Joseph says, “OK, I think we all understand where you’re headed and what you want. We now need to plan it and do it. Let’s go eat.” The meeting breaks up when we head off for food. People move away in small groups discussing what I’d said. They should do this well now they know what the aim is.
After lunch I spend a lot of time with people discussing various aspects of what I want in the valleys and in the forest. All of the feedback is positive so I think this will go well. That night Kira and the Damsels all insist I sleep in my new house to have some comfort. I do as told.
The next few days go fast while we prepare for the military campaign.