A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 146: The Lash
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
Editor: nnpdad 20 May 2021
I heard the low talk. They simply didn’t realize how sound carried at night, and they definitely didn’t consider that I made my rounds on foot. Compared to Pete and his guys, I was still an elephant crashing through the forest, but our guys weren’t even paying attention. So I started stealing their gear - weapons and bedrolls were my favorites those first two nights.
I never said a word. I just stashed them in one of my packs and woke up my relief. Jeb had the death watch just before dawn. He and I had drawn straws (grass stems) over it and he lost. He was the only other experienced warrior and he showed it immediately, by waking up fully alert. He asked what I had done and he laughed. He made me promise it was his turn tomorrow; fine by me. I’d have death watch tomorrow and that really just meant getting up early.
Morning was interesting. I had five new bedrolls and five muskets and was curious to see what I’d hear. They didn’t report it; no alarm was raised at all. Tomorrow would be different, I’d rouse everyone with a call to arms and have a word with those who showed up weaponless. I’d have to figure out a punishment that reflected the seriousness of their crime.
I spent a pretty good amount of time making a cat-o-nine-tails out of length of rope on that day. No, it wasn’t fancy, and I hoped to never use it, but it needed to be visually impressive. Watch duty was about as serious as things got and discipline had to be as extreme as failure was. After all, sleeping on watch was the same as treason or attempted murder; people would die from your lack of discipline. I’d seen it happen.
The second day was barely better. We’d lost five animals, including one horse, overnight. That was very much unacceptable and this couldn’t continue. The nice guy in me wanted to get this out of the way early, so I could unload any undesirables in St. Charles.
Calamity still ruled the day. People just lost discipline and livestock wandered off at every chance. A few of them bothered to ask for bread instructions again, but a big chunk of them couldn’t even sort out to put the dried meat in water for a spell before trying to eat it. We actually had men milling around our fire, begging for food. I simply told them to look to their packs. If they had followed instructions they had everything that we had. We had purposefully set it out for them and gave instructions on what to take. Aunty even spoke about foraging.
One of the older black men did show up with bunch of crayfish and we roasted those with him and shared alike. Other men ate jerky again. That had to be getting old.
Thank the heavens, we’d reach St Charles tomorrow.
I awoke when Jeb set down a pile of muskets next to me. I warned him that he had about an hour and a half to sleep before I roused the camp. He knew I was serious when I broke out my horse whip. Not the cat-o’nine, mind you, but more than enough to rouse the camp. I would very much get at least one person’s attention.
First, I started the coffee. Heck, that was why we had cook fires. On top of that, we had watch candles; they burned for two hours. Not hard to track time. But I got coffee going and saddled up my mount. Amos would bring him out to me when it was time. Then I went on the prowl again. This was actually fun and Banshee would happily count every single one of these as coup; she just loved those stripes.
An hour and a half later, I deposited six muskets at our campfire and roused my captains. Then I went back out before the light broke. This part actually wasn’t easy to do. I was about to whip a sleeping man, but in the end it would be for the best. I made sure I chose the sleeping sentry the furthest from the herd and watched from the darkness for a long while.
Dawn was about to broach and I knew it was time. I steeled myself and made the horse whip sing out. I can’t say for sure but it seemed that the lash landed and the whip had found its mark almost perfectly. I didn’t miss, not even close.
If his startled, waking scream didn’t rouse the camp my M1911 certainly did. Thankfully, Amos was right there with my mount. I mounted and slowly rode through the camp hollering, “To arms! To arms!” and then joined my captains at the edge of camp.
I had taken a risk, firing that shot, but the herd didn’t bolt. They had been mostly snoozing and, while now wide awake, they were still relatively calm. Our men were a different story. It was a flat out mess; Keystone Kops, if you will. We had a long way to go. It was hard to believe that, in just a few weeks, this would be a group of hardened men and, unfortunately, they might even be blooded. We just had to make it that far.