Chapter 1: Archer's Ridge

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 630
Comments: 7

1.1

'My country?'

Adrian stared out across the land from the parapet of the light house fort. The grass was green, the stunted bushes were bright with their foliage and in the distance a small village clung to its existence on the side of a steep rocky hill. The flimsy wooden houses hugging the shallowest of the sides of the hill seemed nearly desolate. No one was out in the glorious sunshine and only from one chimney did a tiny smudge of smoke creep to streak the pale sky with dirty black. Overshadowing the village an ancient grey stone castle perched precariously on the edge of a shear drop, a distinct feature of Aresh Sept Hill.

The stone road wound from the top of the hill, through the village and across the land to the harbour on the other side of the fort. Closer to the cliff edge the grass failed and only wiry tufts grew on the rocky land. The lighthouse, a spectacular monument to the hard work of those who had loved their land, stood proudly on a projection which divided the harbour from the notoriously dangerous region of cliffs, sea and treacherous rocks known as Archer's ridge.

From the fort a narrow path ran along the cliff edge some way before cutting down into the cliff face toward the sandy beach below. It could be used as a shortcut but in fact it was the only route you could realistically take. The cliffs dropped away so suddenly at the next bay that the slope was too steep to descend without ropes. Thus the path made a moderately safe descent to Archer's Bay. In the other direction the harbour lay still and peaceful in the heat of the early summer day. Boats bobbed at their moorings while fifteen or so sailors sat on the harbour wall eating their navy rations. They hadn't sailed in weeks and they were bored. So were the forty soldiers whom manned the lighthouse fort. Adrian was just one.

'This is my country,' he thought.

Ripped by civil war. Rebels fighting rebels. Peace keepers killing. Freedom fighters forcing others to agree with their ideas. People's armies taking from those they claim to fight for. Everyone claiming to win. Everyone losing.

How could any side win when so many died? Thousands were dying, but not in fights. They were dying of the famine. They were dying because what little food they had was taken for the army. They called each other rebels. They called themselves law keepers and freedom fighters. All they really could be called was destroyers. Destroyers of politics. Destroyers of commerce. Destroyers of lives. This was civil war. No one wins.

 

1.2

Simon edged the boat around some underwater rocks using a long wooden pole. The water was still and hardly a wave tempered the cloudy sea. If it hadn't been so they would surely have struck these rocks and sank. Now Simon was feeling the way ahead with his pole while his cousin Joe and Uncle Nathan rowed slowly against the deadly current. A long shore breeze ruffled the water. Nathan jumped up and hauled the heavy sail away from the slender mast so that it filled with the slight breath of wind. Joe seized the jib rope and pulled it taut. The boat turned across the wind and away from the rocks. Simon swung his pole through the water at the bows. The pole struck rock just off to the port side. Simon felt out the rock and pushed hard against it with his pole. The boat shifted, then the pole slipped to one side and Simon fell into the water with a surprised cry.

Nathan had just connected the main sail's pulley block with its rope to the stern when he heard Simon's cry. He dropped the extra length of rope he'd been coiling and bounded to the bows. Joe was already there a short wooden pole on a rope in his hand. He threw it out to Simon. Simon found it, held on firmly and the others drew him back to the boat. Nathan pulled him out and Joe stowed the rope. They had lost their long pole and had to trust to luck which frankly none of them believed in. They either knew what they were doing or they didn't and right at this moment they didn't.

The wind tugged at the sails. The boat shifted awkwardly as though sensing her owner's incompetence. Simon and Joe took up the oars while Nathan held the jib rope and the tiller steady.

'We're heading back out to sea,' Joe noted as the boat dropped forward over a small wave caused by the breeze.

'Well at least we're not going into rocks,' Nathan replied. He was tired. They'd been on the sea since the sea fight with Narvis and his crew the previous day, having lost their Bearings. Now they had no more water although they had plenty of food and the day looked as though it was going to get hotter.

'I suppose that is a good thing,' Joe agreed with Nathan.

'I don't…' Simon began but a grim grinding tearing sound and a suddenly more savage slap of water on the ships side cut him off. A sickening sound that made the whole boat shudder and groan. Simon was about to leap overboard when a jolt ran down the length of the boat and she pitched forward into the sea. Momentarily she was swamped, but she still floated. Simon scrambled up from where he'd been flung on the dark weathered wooden boards of the boat.

Nathan spoke first. 'I told you there was no such thing as luck,' he stated in a firm voice. 'Now let's get a little further from these rocks then turn north and try to get into shore again. I thank my brother-in-law he knew how to build sturdy boats else we'd be swimming now.'

They sailed for a short time before turning to port and making a wide loop round the place they assumed the rocks to occupy. Joe handled the jib while Nathan steered and kept an eye on the main sheet. Simon bailed out water with an old lamp oil can. They had a leak and it was a constant difficulty to keep the water in the sea rather than the boat.

Quite suddenly Nathan pointed up at the cliffs. 'Look,' he cried. 'A light house,'

'It would help if they lit the light to show us that there are rocks,' Joe muttered sullenly.

Simon squinted up at the tall cylindrical building mounted on the end of the cliffs. 'As usual for such a morning as this it is not lit,' he said at last. 'I think it is still morning,' he continued almost as an aside before adding his observations. 'But even if it were lit, there's a shield blocking the light from this direction. There must be a harbour somewhere in the other direction,'

'Some help that is now,' Joe muttered.

Nathan sighed. 'Well there's a good sheltered bay ahead of us. We can pull the boat up there and make camp. Perhaps we can fix her up and get more provisions.'

Joe was roused by Nathan's optimism and smiled. Maybe things would work out for good after all.

They landed in shallow water at the bottom of the beach. The main sail was wound round the mast and the jib sheet was taken down and folded. Then Simon and Joe took down the mast and laid it down the length of the boat. Nathan tidied the ropes. Then all together they got out and carried the boat up the beach.

'Let's explore,' Simon suggested eagerly without really considering their weariness.

Joe forgot how tired he was and nodded cheerfully. 'Yes, let's go and look down the beach that way.' He indicated vaguely in the direction of the cliffs and the lighthouse.

Without waiting for Nathan's approval the two boys blundered off down the beach, round the end of the cliffs and along the sand toward the cliff projection on which the light house stood.

 

1.3

Edward lay on his belly looking out across the harbour at a single-mast yacht with its sails neatly covered with waxed cloth and the rigging oiled black as tar. All was as it should be but it had been like this for too long. A ship that's in the harbour is neat and safe, but it wasn't built to be there. It was built to ride the waves, to sail the ocean blue and face the raging storms. Sailors were meant to sail. Mariners should be on the deep marine, not sitting on some solid stone projection looking into the wild waters. He sighed and rolled lazily onto one side before rising to his feet.

'Hi there Ted,' his brother hailed from where he was weight lifting with a moderately small anchor whilst sitting on the rail of another larger ship. 'The men are going up to the fort this evening.'

'Well you know my mind on that Tom,' Ted replied the unasked question.

'Terry said the same,' Tom mumbled a little gloomily.

'What's the matter?' Ted asked.

'What else can we do?' Tom answered with a question. 'I'm bored. From what they say it's fun at the fort. They come back singing and laughing around two…'

'Utterly filthy drunk,' Ted cut in coldly.

'I suppose so,' Tom consented, 'but surely it's better than sitting here all evening. I just miss the old days.'

'I'll tell you what,' Ted offered his best. He knew how bored Tom was. He was also bored. 'We'll go down to the boats and take one out tonight without them knowing. Is that a good deal?'

Terry popped up from behind the rail where he'd been creeping up on Tom. 'Absolutely,' he exclaimed. 'Nothing beats a good bit of sailing.'

Tom laughed. 'Keep it down Terry or it won't be secret and we won't be able to do it.

Terry grinned and nodded. 'Let's pretend to be staying here to look after the boats.'

'They won't fall for that,' Ted smiled. 'I think we better say we're going to visit a friend in the village like we usually do.'

'What if they check?' Tom asked dubiously.

'They haven't yet, so I doubt they will tonight,' Ted reassured. 'Now let's get bored again or they'll suspect something.

Terry pulled a face and walked away down the deck. Tom picked up the anchor again and lifted it above his head with relative ease. Ted sighed and walked down the harbour wall to find an appropriate boat without being noticed. The only reason he was now bored was because there was a full five hours until the other navy men would troop off up to the fort.

 

1.4

'What kind of rock do you reckon this is?' Joe asked Nathan, who had joined them on the beach below the cliffs.

'I'm not sure,' Nathan admitted. He tapped his knife edge against the steep cliff face. 'It's not flint, but it's very hard. It's not basalt either and that's all the rocks I really know.'

'I wonder if that projection is the same,' Simon mused before setting off along the foot of the cliff toward the lighthouse.

'Look at this,' Joe suddenly exclaimed from where he'd crouched down in the sand.

Simon turned round and Nathan came quickly from the rock to where Joe knelt. Joe pointed in triumph at a metal hook half buried in the slightly coarse sand.

'It looks like a boat hook,' Simon stated excitedly.

'Pull it out of the sand Joe,' Nathan prompted.

'It's a bit rusty so I'd think its iron or steel,' Simon continued leaning over the hooks that Joe couldn't get it out. 'There aren't any barbs on it so it must be for lifting and not pulling and pushing.'

'Mind out the way, Sime,' Joe shoved his cousin.

'Fine,' Simon stalked away, scanning the ground for any other things of interest.

Once Joe had extracted the large hook from the sand they discovered why it had been abandoned. The metal was fractured and in one place needle-like shards of iron hung freely from a broken edge. They dropped their find and went off after Simon who had picked up an unusual shell which he was studying. So they progressed slowly along the beach stopping every few steps to look at some find or another, mostly shells, feathers and the like, although an arrow was found and a rusty knife as well as a piece of chain. They were about two thirds of the way to the projection when Nathan suddenly stopped still and pointed out a big problem.

'Boys. Stop a moment,' he called them to him. 'The tide. It's cut us off. We can't get back to the boat.'

'What do we do?' Joe cried out in alarm. 'What if it's a rip tide? We'll be dashed to pieces on the cliffs. We're going to drown.'

'Oh, please stop being melodramatic,' Nathan sighed. 'It probably isn't a rip tide here anyway. Come on. Let's see if we can swim to the beach.

'We've got ropes,' Simon suggested. 'I'm a strong swimmer. I'll see if it's a rip tide.

'Agreed,' Nathan smiled and they hurried back the way they'd come.

A few minutes later Simon was standing thigh deep in cold water with one end of a rope tied to his belt while Joe and Nathan held the other end.

'Ok,' Simon called. 'Here goes.' He plunged into the water and was momentarily lost to view. His head surfaced like a little blond ball and his arms struck through the water. An unexpectedly large wave collapsed over him and yet again he was lost to view. A minute or so passed before Simon jerked on the rope and pulled himself back to the safety of the beach where Joe and Nathan waited anxiously for him.

'Well?' Nathan asked as Simon wrung the water from his tunic.

'There's no way we can swim,' Simon said and wiped his hair from his slightly sun burnt face. 'The waves are very strong against the cliffs. Surprisingly strong.'

'Then what do we do?' Joe looked alarmed. 'We're going to drown!'

'Don't be so stupid Joe,' Nathan sighed. 'We'll think of something.'

'Yes,' Simon grinned. 'Like climbing the cliffs. Come on.'

'How?' Joe demanded as he followed his cousin and uncle. 'The cliffs will crumble and they're so high.'

'It's worth a go,' Nathan said hesitantly. He also had his doubts but he didn't want to support his sons panic. Joe was Simon's elder by 2 years but sometimes he acted a lot younger. At least Simon thought for himself and didn't just panic. 'Don't you think we could get to the lighthouse?' he called forward to Simon who was already busy looking for a way up the steep cliffs.

Simon shook his head. 'The sea has already reached that.'

I guess so,' Nathan sighed and looked toward the cliffs again. It looked like that was the only way. Suddenly Simon ran down the beach toward the lighthouse and pulled himself up the cliff. When he reached Nathan's head height he looked back to see if the others were coming.

Nathan looked at the cliff where Simon had chosen to climb and couldn't understand why there. It was quite smooth and steeper than most other places. He hesitated but Joe was already scrambling up behind Simon who had continued up the cliff. Reluctantly he admitted to himself that Simon would have a reason and followed the two boys.

A few minutes later he found himself crawling along a narrow ledge holding tightly to the cliffs. Simon still led the way. Up again they climbed and onto another ledge. This time they crawled to the left. Now Nathan could see that this was the only way they could have got up, but he still couldn't see how to go on. Suddenly Simon sat down on the ledge and looked at the others.

'There are no algae on the cliffs here so we should be high enough,' he announced, satisfied with the achievement and reluctant to admit that he couldn't find a way up from where they were now.

'Great,' Joe muttered. 'So we're staying here for the next six to eight hours are we?'

'Joe, stop complaining,' Nathan scolded sharply. 'Simon's right. We are safe and it is irrelevant that we have to sit up here.'

Simon leaned back into a crevice in the cliff and to the amazement of the others, disappeared. His legs kicked in the air a moment before twisting round. Then the pair of legs pulled up on to the ledge and Simon's hind quarters disappeared into the cliff.

'Simon?' Nathan called out in dismay.

'Where are you Sime?' Joe called turning round on the ledge to see where Simon had disappeared.

An ecstatic Simon reappeared, head first through the hole in the cliff. 'It's a cave,' he exclaimed. 'A big one. It's a dug out room. Come and look!'

He disappeared again. Joe looked at Nathan uncertainly.

'Go on,' Nathan prompted. 'Let's look.'

Joe crawled carefully into the cave. Nathan came in behind him. They stood up and strained their eyes in the darkness of the cave.

It was big. It had an even roof and smooth walls. On the right and left were alcoves and shelves cut out of the solid rock. It was a room rather than a cave and it was obvious that it was safe from the sea. It didn't take them long to decide to make this their base until they were ready to go.

 

1.5

I stood on the hill that day, looking down from the castle steps. The road wound away as usual into the distance. There were soldiers down at the lighthouse fort but so far we hadn't seen any fighting. Of course we'd heard of fighting. Rumours of rape, and massacre, and murder, and hate, and fear. That was about all we ever did hear about. That day we'd heard that a rampaging troop were coming up to get recruits for their army. We didn't know which army. To us they were all the same. We just wanted to get on with life and survive. If surviving meant fighting, we were more than ready.

I stood on the highest point of the hill, with only the castle looming over me and I watched. I watched the road. I watched the fields and I watched the fort. There was no movement other than that I expected to see. At the foot of the hill furthest from the fort my brothers and sisters were tending our depleted flock of sheep. We had them for the simple reason that we'd hidden them when the troops came last time from the fort. No one thought to look in the castle. We would have starved long before if it hadn't been for the castle. Below in the village the appearance was that of being abandoned. That was how we wanted it to look. We weren't ready to leave. Not yet. Then we still clung to the feeble hope of a peace settlement. We held tight to our few possessions and while wanting peace, we were ready to fight.

I had gone up early that day to the crest of the hill. In the village my grandmother lay in bed, wrapped in the few blankets we still owned. She had become sick and feeble. It wasn't only because of the lack of food. Granddad had died just before the war was declared. But he wasn't the only one we lost. They'd already taken away Richard, Thomas, Jeffrey, Carl, Allan, Hayden, Steven, and his sons Steven junior and William. They'd been taken to fight. That had been three months before and we'd not seen them since. Now the threat of them coming again bore down on us like a stone round our necks.

There on Aresh Sept hill I stood and I gripped the rapier at my side. If they came, they'd know what a blade felt like. We were resolved on that. My oldest brother, Jude, had an axe. He'd sharpened it especially for today. Even little Johnny was ready to fight. I made him a bow and arrow and he was waiting on top of the roof of his family's house. My mother was with grandmother.  Aunty Lucy was baking bread with the last of our flower in case we should be forced to leave. We were determined not to, but we all looked forward to eating bread. We'd not done so for a long time.

I stood on the hill that day looking down from the castle steps. I watched and gripped the rapier. They never came. At least the soldiers didn't.


Submitted: April 07, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Cwester. All rights reserved.

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Comments

vengeance

The scintillating descriptions in the opening was quite alluring. From a stylistic point of view, the thorough usage of parallel syntax was also very appealing. Great read over all.

Sun, April 8th, 2012 10:03pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for reading this and giving this feedback. I much appreciate it. If you'd be interested in reading further, I would be glad to let you know when i post the next chapter. It will be quite soon.

Sun, April 8th, 2012 3:25pm

I am Revera Love

Second to last paragraph of section 1 was my favorite. I think that is so clever the way you presented the irony of all those stations :)

Sat, April 28th, 2012 3:58am

Author
Reply

Thank you. I wanted to get across the pointlessness of the civil war and how the reason for it wasn't important to the story, even though the war itself is. I'm glad if that has come across. Your comment is much appreciated.

Sat, April 28th, 2012 6:50am

Julie March

I stumbled across this while prowling Booksie for something interesting to read. I see that you have seven more chapters up; I will continue to read this book! I like your use of a "meanwhile," and "over there, they were doing this" storyline. It breaks things up and makes it easier to read and follow. Please keep me updated!

Wed, July 4th, 2012 1:06am

Author
Reply

Thank you. I hope you enjoy it. I enjoyed writing it. I'd be delighted to keep you updated.

Wed, July 4th, 2012 1:41am

Irish wolf hound

A stunning chapter! on to the next one now, leaving only time enough to type this!

Fri, July 20th, 2012 7:39am

Author
Reply

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it enough to read on. I think this starts rather slowly, so I appolagise for that.

Fri, July 20th, 2012 2:12am

FrootLoop246

Oh wow. This was really good! Your're no doubt very talented! Your description was very vivid, well-written, and I could easily picture everything as I read. Your flow is wonderful and I didn't see any spelling or grammar errors.

While this isn't my sort of read, I can't deny that this is a wonderful first chapter and you're a REALLY amazing chapter!!!!!

Great job!!!!! :)

Thu, April 4th, 2013 12:13pm

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I very much appreciate the analysis in your feedback.

Thu, April 4th, 2013 1:59pm

M K Brown

"Joe was already there a short wooden pole on a rope in his hand." You just need either a comma after the word "there" or add the word "with" in the same place.

"Simon began but a grim grinding tearing sound and a suddenly more savage slap of water on the ships side cut him off." Add a comma after "grinding" and use "sudden" instead of "suddenly". Also "ships" in this context needs an apostrophe as it is the side of the ship not more than one ship.

"Keep it down Terry or it won't be secret and we won't be able to do it." The end quotation mark is missing.

"Now let's get bored again or they'll suspect something." The end quotation mark is missing.

"he didn't want to support his sons panic." An apostrophe missing here from "sons".

This was very well written, really vivid descriptive and good character development introduced gradually throughout the chapter.

There are a few minor errors here and there but it is a long piece and they are tough to spot, I've pointed out a few above.

Is it a dictation program you use?

I am not sure if I like the story as the plot has yet to unfold a bit more so I will read more at some stage.

Mon, April 8th, 2013 7:27pm

Author
Reply

I have found that this story starts far too slowly. Thank you for the corrections. I will definitely take them on board, correcting them on my computer, although i'm not sure when I'd be able to correct them on Booksie as I need someone seeing to help me add work on this site. I touch type my documents in word. My computer has a Screen Reader on it that litrally reads the hole, or part of the screen to me as and when i need it. Fantastic technology (when it works), even if it slows down the hole computer quite dramatically. Thanks again for all your feedback.

Mon, April 8th, 2013 12:47pm

andreamay

The pace of the story at the beginning is somewhat slow, but it doesn't matter since it serves its purpose in describing the scene and descriptions are as thorough as beautiful (as usual). I have a question about your using the pronoun "whom" in the third paragraph from the very beginning, quote "So were the forty soldiers whom manned the lighthouse fort". I thought that whom should be used in the object position, as in "Whom do you think we should support?" But I may be wrong about this.
Your dialogs are expertly written in their very natural flow and some humorous sparks, with no "he said" repetitions. The outlines of characters are emerging from the background in the way that you feel need to know them better.
I was a little taken aback by sudden appearance of the first person narrative, but I am sure I'll find a good reason for that in the next chapter. Have to admit being very curious about that.

Tue, May 20th, 2014 7:45pm

Author
Reply

I'm glad you enjoyed it and didn't just get bored by the slow pce. I agree that this novel starts very slowly, which is something I hope to change if or when I rewrite it.
Thank you for pointing out that bit with "who/whom". I will take another look at it, but I am quite sure you are right and I will change it when I get a chance.
I'm glad that the charactors are interesting and make you want to know more about them.
The first person was a bit of an experiment at the time, and I hope it adds to the naritive as I intended it to. It may take a while before you see why I have chosen to do it though.
I hope you continue to enjoy reading this.

Tue, May 20th, 2014 11:39pm

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