Chaos Calls 03: the Dragon Dilemma
Chapter 08

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater

Bridgetown Boogie

Late in the afternoon we set up camp early and prepare for the battle we expect the next morning. It’s taken us most of two days to reach Bridgetown. The night is quiet when the cavalry prepare for battle while the infantry take guard duty all night.

The next morning we have an early breakfast. The cavalry mount up and move out while the rest are still breaking camp. We soon reach a canter after we ride off. An hour later we reach the camp of the troops that are facing King Sid’s troops near the Bridgetown Bridge.

The bridge defences are only a few yards this side of the bridge, just far enough into the territory to keep others off the bridge. The total defensive area is only about ten yards in diameter, but it means the barricade that’s a further ten yards this side of it is a large semicircle. The old one across the end of the bridge was only a few yards wide, this one is a few hundred yards long. We near the barricade and camp.

At the nod from the Captain I pull off to the side to let the troops pass by. I’ve no place in this battle so I wait to follow them in. I watch while they canter into the encampment.

With no warning they start shooting the officers, sergeants, and all others who raise weapons. A junior lieutenant leads a dozen men at the enemy troops manning the barricade against King’s Sid’s men. The first targets are the officers and sergeants again, so once they’re dealt with our men call on the troops to surrender.

When I enter the camp I see a man, one I recognise, grinning while he raises his bow to shoot again. There are two arrows stuck in his shirt so he must have good armour on underneath the shirt. I raise my own bow while I pull an arrow with a sharp bodkin arrowhead from the quiver on the neck of my horse. I take aim and let loose just as the man shoots.

Both arrows arrive at the same time. One of my men is hit and folds over the wound while the smile on bowman vanishes when my arrow penetrates his chest after punching through his armour. He’s shocked. I draw another bodkin arrow and shoot again while aiming a little lower.

I ride over, get off Dodger, and walk up to the wounded bowman while saying, “You chose the wrong side to fight for, Sergeant. The General will be happy to tell your family of your death in combat. Pity they’ll have no body for the funeral.” I reach down to pull out a lock of his hair and scalp before I start to strip him of weapons.

When I remove the arrows in his chest and stomach he asks, “Do I know you? You must be from Earth, but I don’t recognise you!”

“We’ve met once before. But neither of us were there. However, at the time I was wearing a balaclava while we got ready for a raid. You know me as Smilodon. I work as a special contractor for the General.”

“I knew it would take someone special to take me out. Taken down by the best I’ve met, I can’t complain.” He grins while I grab his head and give it a twist to finish him off. The arrow wounds should be fatal, but I’m not taking any chances with a special forces operative. I smile when I get his clothes off as he has a set of chain-mail on. No wonder the other arrows didn’t harm him. Jaycee will appreciate having this to use.

By the time I’m finished with Sergeant Davies the fighting is over. Of the five hundred troops here just over three hundred surrender. The troops are lining them up and cleaning up the site when an officer walks over from the bridge defences.

He approaches me and says, “The Captain over there said you’re the one I need to speak to about what’s going to happen now.”

I smile when I reply, “Well, the first thing is I need to get the local King’s Representative busy doing five year indenture papers for these men. One of my men will select some of the horses for us to keep, along with their tack, and we’ll take all of the metal. The rest of the gear is for you to take charge of on behalf of King Sid to help defray the costs of keeping you here. We also have a large group of other people for you to find work for, along with a pile of gear and horses too. We’ve cleared out all the Brotherhood forces this side of the Southern Road and will be going to clear them out as far as Barley when we finish here.”

“I hear they have a big fort with a few thousand men up near the junction with the Southern Road. Can you handle them OK?”

“Already have. That’s where we got the other people and gear. That fort is a pile of ashes now.” He’s stunned. “My Tigers are good fighters. None can stand before them, certainly not the Brotherhood.”

Arrangements

Captain Rider of King Sid’s Army takes me over to speak with the local King’s Representative. We have some discussion as to what to do with everything, since they don’t have much use for all that many people.

The final agreement is the prisoners from here will be indentured for five years. The rest will be indentured for one year, given a horse, gear, food, and guided to King Sid’s Citadel, where they’ll find some work for them. The five year men will travel with them and the officer will try to find work for them along the way. The rest of the gear and horses will be taken back to the Citadel for use by the King’s agents.

I smile, because I know it’ll take them some months to move such a large group to the Citadel. But it will mean the men are spread out and are more likely to integrate quicker. It also takes some of the valuables back to the government’s centre. The King’s Representative hires six locals to help him prepare the indenture papers.

By the time the rest of the column arrives the camp-site is cleaned up and the prisoners from here are in Bridgetown being processed. So we set up camp at the old Brotherhood camp-site. I’ll not bring those men over until after the first lot have their papers done.

The Next Few Days

The next morning Carla, Jaycee, and I take the saddlebags into the bank to deposit the money. Joint accounts are opened with Carla and Jaycee in which I deposit the contents of one saddlebag load each. Most of the rest is placed in my main account and I give Captain Rider about a quarter of a bag load of cash for the government. He’s happy to have it to pay his troops some money, because their pay is well overdue.

It takes a week to process the papers for everyone. I’m surprised they get them all done that fast. Most of the metal gear is loaded onto packs on the horses we’re taking back to Grassy Meadows and two wagons are loaded up with suitable gear for Neil and the other men who helped at the fort. Each man is given a horse, sword, knife, and some money. Food and feed is loaded on their wagons too. I’m letting them go as free men to start new lives.

When all is ready I stand before them and say, “You men helped before the fighting encouraged you to help. So I’m letting you go free. You have all of the gear you need to travel a fair distance and get started again. I don’t care where you go so you can please yourselves about that, except, don’t stop this side of Junction if you go that way, don’t stop this side of the Summer Ford if you go that way, and don’t stop before Two Sheaf if you go south. Go beyond those places and do as you wish. I wish you all well.” They all smile and start to talk about destinations. I leave them to it.

Eight days after we arrived at Bridgetown twenty of King Sid’s men are escorting just over four thousand indentured men to the citadel. The food and cooking gear in the wagons makes it easier for them to get organised and go. The free men are travelling with them to see what things are like that way. They’ll fall out where they like the area.

We watch them move out while we clean-up the camp-site and prepare to move out ourselves. We’ve two wounded in the four-wheel wagons and five dead in the other two. Leading two hundred and fifty horses with large packs we head east.

Because of the large column we’ll turn south on the Southern Road to enter the forest through one of the streams so we don’t leave a trail off the road. We take our time when we ride home.

Eight days later we ride into Grassy Meadows and everyone takes a few days of rest. The dead are buried with full honours the day after we get back to Grassy Meadows. I set things up for the care and welfare of the families of all those killed or wounded.

Planning

On the second day after our arrival we have a planning meeting of all the leaders. I start the discussion by going over what we covered in the last planning meeting and then I head off into new territory.

Looking around the circle I say, “Warren, your job is to select, breed, and train the horses. Second to that you’re to help Carla and Jaycee with the training of the troops. You have knowledge, skills, and experience to be a big help with that. I don’t want the Walers to go out on any raid until after we’ve a good stock of them here. Keep the better ones for breeding and let the rest go on raids. You should get some good half breeds by crossing them with some of the best of the local horses.” He nods in reply, and he smiles at my recognition of what he’s been telling me: which I hadn’t seen until I was working with Dodger.

I turn to Carla, “You should concentrate on staying here and training people. However, there are likely to be times when changes in the way the enemy operates or you’re introducing new tactics so you’ll need to go into the field to see how things are. Take care as your main job is to be the General who co-ordinates the overall war and the troop training.”

She responds, “Yes, Sir. I’ll also be exposed when I go out to look at recruits. But I’ll keep out of the way. I know I’m needed more for my knowledge and training skills. Thank you for your trust.”

I smile at her and look at Jaycee, “Your situation is very similar now. You need to concentrate on training, especially officers and scouts. But there is likely to be more situations where you’ll be needed in the field to oversee larger operations involving two or more units. Train the Captains to work together well to reduce the need for you to be in the field.” She nods agreement. I look around the group as a whole, “Carla and Jaycee have access to some money in the bank, so if you need to buy anything have them organise the cash for you. You know what I hope to see happen here and you all have the skills and knowledge to see it’s done. So organise it as soon as you can, but first, plan it well.”

Lance smiles and nods yes while asking, “You don’t want to approve the plans for the new towns?”

“No. As long as they meet the requirements I laid out before I’ll be happy with whatever you do. I won’t be living in them, so those who will live in them should be involved in their planning and construction. Now, as for the Brotherhood. Carla, Jaycee, you need to plan on regular patrols on the roads between Two Sheaf, Summer Ford, Bridgetown, and Barley. You also need to organise raids against the Brotherhood troops east of Barley and to keep an eye on their places within a few days ride to the east. You need to build our forces to three full troops of infantry and three of cavalry before you take on Marley. You’ll need five full troops of each to move the campaign any further east. That’s troops in full operation. You’ll also need others in training to replace those wounded or in need of a rest. Make sure people rest between operations. Take care in selecting recruits because we don’t want any enemy spies here.” They all nod yes. “Good. The type of commando raids you were conducting while I was away can be conducted against any Brotherhood forces anywhere. Hit them as far east as you feel safe in doing so, but make sure you have a safe way out before you do. The idea is to keep them stirred up and on the hop. Keep the pressure on. Don’t let them have a breather, but keep safe while protecting our people is the top priority.”

Carla replies, “I know what you want, Al. I’ll reinforce it in planning meetings and training. We’ll hurt them, and hurt them bad.”

“Good. In a few more days I’ll be leaving again and I’ll be gone many months. So it’s up to you, as a group and as individuals, to lead these people and direct their efforts. With us controlling all this side of Barley you’ll be able to take excess grain for sale to the west and south. Make sure to have them guarded when you do.” Having a thought I add, “I want you to maintain a good patrol of a dozen or so along the Southern Road to Two Sheaf at all times. The Brotherhood are sending couriers to someone down south so we want to stop that and take out all the couriers they send. Messing up their communications will hurt them.”

The discussion breaks down into a lot of question on fine points, most of which I redirect back to them to resolve as a group. I need them to work as a leadership group without me because I won’t always be here. We all get to bed late that night.

Barley Bound

A week after our return from Bridgetown it’s time to get going again and to deliver a message to the Brotherhood. This time we’ll take the Damsels with us and we’ll depart from Barley when we finish with the Brotherhood force there. We prepare for the full list of activities and Captain Dane leads the column out the gate.

 
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