Chaos Calls 05: Island Girl
CopyrightÂ© 2017 by Ernest Bywater
Chaos - Brothers Island
There’s a fair breeze blowing us toward the beach, if it was much stronger it would be too rough for us to sail such a wide and flat boat. When we get closer to the island we can see where the water is disturbed by hitting the coral reef. We can also look over the side to see a lot of marine life with lots of teeth swimming in the waters here. For most of the trip to the island we let the sails push us and use the rudder to guide us, but when we get close to the reef the men start rowing again to get us over the reef as quickly as possible. The water just before the reef is a lot rougher than near the High Wing, but once we cross the reef the water is a lot more settled. There are waves, but there aren’t any bounce back waves or cross currents inside the reef. Also, the marine life is a lot smaller, except for the huge crabs we can see scuttling about on the sea floor because the water is crystal clear here.
A few minutes after crossing the reef we reach the beach. We unship the mast and rudder, lay them down on the main deck, and tie them to the deck before we grab the side ropes to drag the boat up the slope of the beach to set it beside the building on the edge of the beach. The spot looks to be well above the highest tide, so Reef Runner should be safe.
I pull out my telescope to look back at High Wing, and I see all of the men talking about us getting ashore without any trouble. Turning to the slope I start on the long walk up to the central plateau. We all have our walking sticks in hand to help us climb the steep slope.
When we reach the plateau above the beach by following the light trail up the slope we find the trail splits into two. Each is at a rough forty-five degree angle from straight ahead. From the map I know the trails follow an almost straight line to each of the ports. We need to go to Junior Port, so we take the left trail.
Although the plateaux are flat they aren’t dead flat, they’re more like a rolling plain with large flat areas between low rises too gentle to be called a ridge. So it’s not possible to look out across the whole plain other than when on the ridges between the major areas. What the rises mean for our travels is we have to take care when we near the crest of one of the rises so we can check out what’s in the next area before we make ourselves visible to anyone in the area.
Topping one rise we find a group of about twenty soldiers taking the livestock from a farm while holding the farmers at sword point. After a few quick words Rob leads all of the guards along the backside of the rise to their right so they can cross the rise behind the farmhouse while I lead Tora and Kira along the trail running in front of the farmhouse. All of us tie ropes to our walking sticks to hang them over our shoulders before we ready our bows for use. We’ll get the attention of the soldiers to allow Rob’s group to reach the farm without being seen. We don’t know what side the soldiers are on, but we don’t like how they go about things so we’re assuming it’s a hostile situation for us and are acting accordingly.
The farm is about a mile from where we cross the rise, but we manage to get halfway to the farmhouse before any of the soldiers notice us. Which shows how observant they are! One of the soldiers sees us, he says something, the officer looks our way, speaks to another soldier, and eleven soldiers ride our way. When the soldiers are only about a hundred feet away we raise our bows while I call out to them, “If you charge us we’ll treat it as an attack and defend ourselves.”
The lead soldier snarls, draws his sword, and spurs his horse forward. The rest do the same. Good, whoever they are they’re attacking us so we’re now free to defend ourselves against the whole group.
We loose our first arrows, killing two and wounding one who moved as we fired. Our next flight kills three more. However, they’re now down to four attackers. I drop my bow, bring up my mini-crossbow, and shoot two more before they’re close enough to be a worry. The soldiers raise their swords to strike us down as they go by, but they have no targets when we throw ourselves to the side and to the ground just before they reach us. After they charge on past us Kira and Tora rise to their knees and shoot the two remaining soldiers in the back.
Looking around while getting up I see the officer leading the rest of his soldiers out of the farm to attack us. I hang my mini-crossbow back on my belt and pick up my bow while calling out, “Incoming!” Tora and Kira turn to the new threat.
The group of about fifteen soldiers are passing the small orchard at the rear of the farm when a flight of seven arrows takes out the officer and the first six men. The remaining soldiers swerve around the dead, but lose another three to the next flight from the orchard. One continues to charge at us while the other five drop their swords and put their hands on their heads while slowing their horses down. Both Tora and Kira hit the remaining attacker. I leave the ladies to recover our arrows, to collect the horses, and to strip the dead while I go over to talk to the prisoners.
In response to my question on who they are one of them says, “We’re young farmers conscripted to fight in the Klan Army. Our patrol was sent out to gather all of the stock and grain in the area to feed the troops on the way to attack Junior Port.” Well, I can now take a guess as to which of the Brotherhood’s allies is in charge of Senior Port: the Ku Klux Klan, but I’m not sure which of the modern Klan groups is involved here.
We spend about an hour on the farm sorting through what we collect from the dead soldiers. When we leave we take twenty-one of the twenty-six horses with us, leaving the others with the farmer. With the ten of us, our five new servants, and six pack horses we’ve more than enough extra work without having to care for five more horses. We head off in pursuit of the Klan Army at a fast pace.
Just before dark we top the ridge between the central plateau and the one around Junior Port. From the top of the ridge we can see where the Klan Army is setting up their camp a couple of miles from the wall of the port. It looks like they’ve only just arrived because most of the army is still on the road to where they’re setting up the camp. There has to be few a thousand men in the Klan Army force here.
Turning to our new servants I ask, “How many of the soldiers in the army are conscripts like you men?”
Nick, the one who appears to be their leader, says, “All but the officers and the sergeant. If you don’t do as they say you get beaten or killed. You also get beaten if you do anything without a direct order to do it.”
I grin and ask, “So, if we ride along the column killing the officers and sergeants the rest are likely to do nothing at all?” They all nod yes. Turning to my team I ask, “Feel like trying to capture an army?” They all stare at me for a moment, smile, nod yes, and start getting their weapons ready. “Have your big bows ready to use, but I think we can do this with the small bows for most of them while we ride. They’ll be easier to use.”
Dusk is almost upon us as we ride up to the rear of the column. They know there are no enemy soldiers behind them so they don’t even have a rearguard in place to watch for any danger. Tora and I have two hundred of the crossbow bolts with our small bows in hand while everyone else has their big bows in hand. The force is made of troops of twenty-four men with an officer and sergeant leading each troop. So we’ll just ride up, take out the leadership, and ride on. One of our new servants will explain to the men what’s happening. I hope we can get a lot of this done quickly. Dusk is falling so it’s hard for them to see what we’re wearing to see we aren’t part of their force. I’m playing on the fact they assume no one out here will attack them to allow us to deal with most of the hardcore soldiers before we have to worry about any major fights.
We ride down the right side of the column in a single row with me leading. On reaching the head of the last troop of soldiers I aim my bow at the officer while Tora aims at the sergeant, we loose our bolts together.
The only sound is the sharp intake of breath by the two soldiers in the lead of the troop when we fire. Both targets collapse forward onto their horses and everyone keeps riding along at a gentle walk. I turn to the two soldiers and say, “See they don’t fall off the horses, please.” They both nod yes while they move forward to beside the two dying men. I smile while I move up along the next troop of soldiers.
Nick and the other four men with him take turns explaining what we want to the men in the troops so they’ll be ready to set up their own camp a little to one side when we reach the camp.
The system works well, but only because Nick was right. The troops are happy to see us take out the officers and sergeants. It’s full dark by the time we reach the front of the column where still mounted troops are being directed to establish their camps. The fifty-seven troops of men behind us represent about half of the force here.
My team and I dismount at the head of the column, two of Nick’s men take the leads to our horses while we walk over to where an officer and sergeant are waving people to camp positions. As soon as we shoot them two men from the last troop move forward to take them off to wherever Nick is having the dead put aside and stripped of useful gear.
The camps are set out with one row of a large tent and two troops then twenty-five rows of four troops in four lines from the left. For most of them the officers and sergeant are obvious because they’re the only two standing around waving their hands while the others set up the picket lines for the horses and the tents. So we just walk into their camp area, shoot the two leaders, and move on while one of our new men tells the others what’s happening.
From looking at how the camp is laid out I now know there are one hundred and two troops here. Since the far end is one camp with a big tent with only two troops camped in front of it I suspect those troops near the big camp are the ones loyal to the General in charge of this army. We work our way toward the camp with the big tent. Tora and I have just eliminated our eightieth troop command set when a man steps out of the big tent and shouts, “Officers’ Call.”
All of the officers and sergeants turn to the big tent, the officers speak to the sergeants, get a nod yes, and walk toward the big tent. I glance behind me at my team backing me up, I wave for Bridget and Kira to take two of the sergeants and we all start walking through the troop camps between us and the big tent. When we near the sergeants we give them a crossbow bolt in the chest each. These little bows are very easy to hide and use, but they are short range. The smiles on the troops when we kill the sergeants is very reassuring. However, I’m not so sure that will be the case with the two troops in front of the big tent. There’s something about the way they’re set up which worries me.
After dropping the last of the sergeants in the row of four before the big tent Rob softly says, “Those troops on the right look older and more professional. You best leave them until after you secure the big tent. We’ll see they keep off your back.”
I softly reply, “Be ready with your big bows. Tora, Kira, and I will deal with those in the tent.” I turn to my two aides to say, “Tora, Kira, switch to your big bows, but stand ready to use swords. Stay at the entrance to back me up. I’ll use my mini-crossbow and swords while I mix it up with them.” We wait a moment for us all to get ready, then we walk to our positions. Rob and his men to watch the two troops we’ve not gone near while Tora and Kira range out to my right when we walk to the tent entrance.
On entering the tent we see there’s about thirty men and six women in the tent. Tora and Kira step to each side of the entrance while they bring their bows up. I walk forward with a sword in my left hand beside my leg and the mini-crossbow in my right hand. I raise the cross-bow and shoot two men at the back of the tent in the forehead because they look to me like they’re high quality professional personal bodyguards. I also shoot the man in front of those two in the right shoulder. The first two drop down and the third screams just as two men on the sides scream, I suspect they just got shot by my aides. The rest are turning around while drawing their swords. Reaching up to my right shoulder with my right hand I draw my katana while I bring my left hand up to stab a man on my left in the groin, he drops with a scream just as two more scream to the sides. Then things get interesting as I face twenty odd armed men.
For the next few minutes events are very confused while I swing both swords around in front of me and to my sides to parry attacks and to stab people, I even swing them up to slice a few throats open. Most of it is just reflex actions to what I see happening in front of me. I keep hearing a lot of screams from both inside and outside of the tent for the hectic period of the fight. The sounds outside indicate Rob and the team are also busy.
After a few minutes of close fighting I’m standing there looking at twenty-eight dead men and one injured man trying to load a crossbow, along with six stunned women. I move over to the General and tug on the crossbow bolt. He screams. I ask, “Who are you? Where are you from?”
He replies, “I’m Bill Edwards of Kentucky. Who are you?”
“You captured a Damsel. Is she safe in Senior Port while you’re here?”
“She’s in my house. My local staff will keep her safe. Who are you?”
“You know me as Hero Al, many locals call me Lord Al. How many men did you leave at Senior Port, and how many are conscripts?”
“Just over three hundred and all but their leaders are conscripts, only good for garrison duty. You’re young for a Hero of your reputation!”
I grin while saying, “Age has little bearing on skill or ability. Just on the time you have to learn things.” Having found his ring in a pocket I put it in my pocket before standing and finishing him off with a stab to the throat. I could have used him as a special prisoner, but there’s still way too much to do before we can return to Crossroads to hand him over, so I finish him off to ensure he doesn’t get away from us before I finish this campaign.
Turning to the women there I ask, “How many of you are slaves?”
One of them smiles as she says, “We all were, until you killed him. Will you take us back to Senior Port and our families?”
I nod while saying,”Yes. Once I finish my business here, I will.”
I look at Tora and she says, “Rob has everything under control. They had to shoot everyone in the last two troops, but three of ours got wounded. They aren’t bad and Bridget is treating them.” I nod to show I heard.
I finish stripping everything off Edwards and I turn to the next man. However, two soldiers are carrying my intended target out the door and nearly all of the dead are gone. I look over, and Tora smiles while saying, “Rob heard of a hog farm nearby so he’s having all of the dead stripped and shipped there to feed the hogs.” I laugh. She adds, “You now have an army of two thousand four hundred conscripts, what do you want to do with them?”
Slowly shaking my head I say, “I want to send them home, but I can’t until after we finish with Hilda and June before I go capture Senior Port to get Elsa.”
I walk outside to be met by Rob, who says, “I’ve sent the dead off to be disposed of and I’ve set guards for the night. We should all get a good sleep because I expect the port people to be active in the morning.”
I slowly nod yes and I reply, “In the morning I want the troops to prepare to be ready to defend themselves if attacked, but to otherwise just sit around as if out on a holiday. I’ll want you and the rest of the team to line up across the road about a mile from the port wall while Tora, Kira, and I walk up to the wall to talk to them. We’ll then have to play it by ear.” He nods to show he heard and he understands before he moves off, so I return to the tent to see about food before going to sleep for the night.
We take our time getting ready in the morning. So the sun is well on its way when we walk down the road toward the port. The ten of us in forest camouflage clothing walk down the middle of the road. When we’re about a mile from the wall I make a sign and my guards fall out to line up across the road before squatting in line to watch us. I continue on with Kira and Tora behind me making a ‘V’ with me as the lead point.
We’re about a hundred yards from the wall when a man yells, “Close enough, who are you, why have you brought your army here, and what do you want?”
I look up at the wall. In the middle of the section above the gate is a well dressed man standing beside Hilda. I smile and shout back, “I’m Al. I didn’t bring an army here, just my team you see behind me. When we got here last night I found the Klan Army camped between me and my destination of Junior Port. So I attacked them, killed their leaders, and now what you see sitting back there are my prisoners waiting for me to conclude my business here before I take them back to Senior Port, capture it, kill the last of the Klan leadership there, and then release this army of conscript farmers I captured.” We can all see their eyes go wide while I tell them what happened.
The man calls back, “How do we know you tell the truth?”
“You can send people to talk to my prisoners or send people to Jim’s hog farm and ask about all the dead we gave him as food last night. I don’t care if you believe me or not.” I turn to look directly at Hilda to say, “I’m the leader of the Lottery Audit Team. I’ve come to interview you on how you were selected and to take you back to talk to Mac about the event, Hilda.” She raises her eyebrows at me, so I add, “Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. But we will do it. The easy way is you go get June Town Clerk and walk out to me. The hard way is I and my audit team will take the port by force, kill any who get in our way, then walk out with you and June. The choice is yours!”
She smiles and says, “You’re sure of yourself, for one so young.”
“I don’t think you heard of me before you left, but June may have. I’m sure some of the people in the port have heard the rumours from the mainland. I’ve been fighting the Brotherhood for a while and those who know me on the mainland call me Lord Al.” I notice a few on the wall stare at me then talk to those near them. I smile, “Hilda, I’m sure you know what I mean when I talk about a US Delta Team!” She nods her head yes. “That’s one behind me on the road. They’re Special Forces, we’re an Elite Force point team for them. If we wanted to I could climb your wall while these two killed anyone trying to shoot me. So sneaking in at night would be easy for me.”
Hilda laughs and says, “If you can climb this wall with just what you have with you I’ll go with you. But I know it can’t be done!”
I grin, turn to Tora, slip my bow and pack off while getting out my climbing hooks. Bending down I undo my shoes and tie them up tight while also attaching the climbing hooks. Following a few warm up exercises while I slip the claws on my hands I look at the wall and ask, “Do we need to shoot people to stop them trying to shoot me, or will you let me climb uncontested?”
The well dressed man smiles and shouts, “No one is to shoot at the young braggart. Let him prove what a fool he is.”
I grin and start walking toward the wall. I race the last twenty-five feet before I leap at the wall where there’s a small corner for the extra work around the gateway. Using my left foot and hand on the main wall and my right foot and hand on the six inch deep side wall I dig the hooks and claws into the sandstone while I scurry up the wall. Out of the corner of my eye I can see many people leaning over to look at me, and I hear many gasps while I use my initial momentum to help me up the twenty-five feet or so of stone wall. The only problem is when I reach the top I almost hit heads with the man when he looks over to see how I’m doing. The shocked man staggers back and I lever myself over the wall to stand beside Hilda. Her eyes are very wide while she slowly shakes her head.
Hilda says, “I can’t believe you did that! I’ll go get June. I don’t like the idea, but I’ll go home with you.”
Giving them a cheeky grin I ask, “Do you want me to wait on the ground inside or outside the gate?”
The man says, “Go down the stairs! It’s bad enough you can climb up a wall like that!” I nod to him and walk down the stairs.
While I wait I take off the hooks and claws. About ten minutes later Hilda comes back on a horse leading another horse with June on it. A command from above has the gates open and we exit. That went a lot easier than I expected. I sign to Rob, he turns to the waiting prisoners and waves his arm in a circle before pointing away from the port. There’s a cheer and people scurry about to pack up their camps to go home.
I look up at June while saying, “Not long now June Clerk. I just have to capture Senior Port and release Elsa Baker then we’ll be on our way to Crossroads.” I turn to Hilda to say, “They were still arguing the case in the courts when I left, so I don’t know what the decision is. However, the Crossroads Administrators could prove the signature on your application was a forgery so they were applying to have your entry into the Lottery cancelled. If they do, it means you aren’t a Damsel and you don’t have to go through any other aspects of the program if you don’t want to.”
Hilda looks down and asks, “They can do that?”
“They don’t know, so they’re trying to do it through the courts.”
June asks, “Who are you?”
Turning to her I say, “I thought Hilda would’ve told you. I’m Hero Al, also known as Lord Al. I’ve come to rescue you from Hilda, and Elsa as well as take Hilda back to Crossroads.”
“Oh. I heard of you while I was being processed on Crossroads, and I’ve heard more about Lord Al since I’ve been on Chaos. I thought I’d be here for a long time because I wasn’t under much duress.”
“Your case got moved up simply because I was in the area to rescue Elsa so I got tasked with convincing Hilda to return and rescuing you as well. Sort of clean sweep the island while I’m here.”
After a moment’s thought I turn to Hilda to say, “Hilda, considering you didn’t want in the program and you were setting up to be in charge, why were you so quick to agree to return with me?”
She shrugs her shoulders and says, “It may be hard to believe, but as much as I don’t want to go through having a child there’s a lot of little things I miss too much. That, and the way some of the people in charge of the city were trying to force me to be their slave. I decided going home was worth the price. I doubt the Mayor would’ve let me go if you hadn’t frightened him by climbing the wall that fast. I’m sure he pictured you climbing into his house to kill him if he objected.” We all laugh at that.
“If they’d used a harder stone it wouldn’t have been so easy and quick, but my climbing hooks can dig into the sandstone a little.” We all talk about other things while we ride.
My people fall in around us when we reach them, and I put my gear back on while we walk. By the time we reach the camp most of it is packed up, cleaned up, and the people are ready to leave. Nick is standing waiting for us with eleven horses, so we mount up to walk the horses through the growing crowd of mounted men. We line up three abreast then go down the road away from Junior Port.
When I glance behind me I see men are moving in line to join the column just as fast as it moves down the road. It doesn’t take long for the column to move far enough away for everyone to be on the road in line.
We’re in no hurry so we take our time by riding slow and letting the horses drink when we cross a stream or river. The island is large so it takes us three days to ride to Senior Port. Along the way I let the men fall out to go home when we pass near their homes. I stop that just before we crest the last rise before Senior Port. I don’t want those in the port to see the men falling out of line. I also have three troops of the soldiers move ahead of us so they’ll be the first to the gate when we get there. I hope they’ll think we’re their force returning, which is sort of true.
The gates open and we’re allowed in, although a few of the soldiers frown when they see my people are still armed. It’s odd no one seems to take notice of the lack of officers and sergeants, but we don’t mind. After Rob leads my guards through the gate he sends two pairs of men out to deal with the officers and soldiers on the city wall. He set things up with Nick at our last stop. Five of the conscripts go with my people to tell the other conscripts what’s happening after the officers and sergeants are no longer a problem for them.
Due to the initial attack on us being started by the Klan Army at the farm every member of the Klan Army is now a valid target for us under the rules of engagement set by Crossroads Administration. Thus it’s simple for my people to walk up to the Klan Army officers and kill them where they stand. The officers and sergeants seem to stay together as a pair and the pairs are spread out along the wall, so it’s easy for our troops to just walk along the wall to them and deal with them. None of them anticipate an attack from inside the wall without a major battle first. Later, the men doing this complain about not having an opportunity to show their sword skills, so I tell them, “Be thankful it was that easy. It saved you from injury or death.”
After we enter the city a lot of the men who live here are allowed to fall out of the column to go home. So are the women we freed. Once we take the city I’ll let those who live near the city who are still with us to go home too, but I want a force with us to look like returning heroes until I deal with those in charge of the city of Senior Port.