Chapter 12:

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

Reads: 209
Comments: 2

 

12.1

“He went exploring!” Tom exclaimed enraged. “I told you that he wasn't to be trusted. He's as slippery as, as an eel.”

“I did think I could leave him for half an hour,” Ted tried to justify himself.

“It doesn't really matter if he explores,” Terry put in quite a bit less perturbed than Tom. “He'll just get lost and then we can find him.”

“I hope you have already found him,” Tom said attackingly to Ted. “Because he won't be able to find his way back.”

“That's where I wish you were right,” Ted sighed and resigned himself to getting an ear full from his brother. “He would be able to find his way back.”

“What do you mean?' Tom demanded. “How?”

“Tom,” Ted tried to begin in a way that wouldn't cause too much shouting at the end, but failed. “I think we've got more of a problem than you realise. You see, Simon can simply walk down a tunnel or over a place and memorise every detail about it. He could estimate the angle of the passage, the height and could tell you accurately how long it was and where the tunnels off it were. He could safely go exploring and retrace his steps exactly without hesitation.”

“Let me get this straight,” Tom glared across the room at his brother. “Simon can map perfectly what he sees with one viewing and he's gone exploring. You knew that he could do this and you allowed him to have the chance to go exploring! Are you mad?”

“I didn't think he'd actually go off in such a short space of time,” Ted protested.

“Have you any idea what he could already know? Have you any idea what this could do to us? Don't you remember what happened the last time you allowed someone to see even a fraction of the tunnels?”

Ted held out his hands in defence. He tried to protest but Tom over ruled him.

“He could have found out all kinds of secrets. He could betray us and take over this place. He could kill us! Have you no sense at all?”

“Ted,” Terry broke in with a quiet confidence that made Tom pause in his rant. “Have you caught him yet? Did you find him?”

Ted took a deep breath and nodded. “I've locked him up,” he murmured.

“You should have killed him,” Tom growled, carried away in his anger. “You should have dealt with him on the spot and not messed about with locking him up. I know you! You'll let him go as soon as he asks you to. You little softy! I bet he was armed too! And I bet you didn't disarm him as I said you should at the start!”

“He would have fought me whether he was armed or not,” Ted snapped.

“Exactly,” Tom declared triumphantly. “He always fights you. He won't give up. He said he wouldn't and he won't. He's not to be trusted. You're pathetic Ted. You think everyone will do what you say. Well I've got news for you. They don't! And here's some more news. It's about time you listened to me and…”

Ted jumped to his feet. That was enough. He would tolerate Tom's ranting when he kept to the points where Ted was obviously wrong. Ted knew he'd been wrong to trust Simon, but this turn was out of bounds.

Tom bent his knees as he saw his brother leap towards him. He tried to sidestep behind the door but Ted was too fast. A fierce scrabble broke out and the two brothers fought for mastery. Tom's muscles bulged on his arms as he pressed Ted down. Ted's slight frame twisted and struck well aimed blows at the far easier large target. Tom was winning when Ted struck up with his left fist and hit him on the side of the jaw. Tom rolled the blow aside but failed to see Ted's real move as Ted's right knee came up and forward into Tom's groin. It wasn't a very hard blow, but hard enough to allow Ted to throw his brother to the ground. A very few brief seconds later Ted had Tom by the neck and had pinned his powerful arms down with the full weight of his body.

“Now you listen to me,” Ted growled.

“Get off me Edward,” Tom growled back, still struggling for control.

“Thomas, just listen,” Ted said threateningly and tightened his grip on his brother's neck.

Tom reluctantly stopped struggling and looked steadily up at his older brother.

“I know I've made mistakes,” Ted said angrily. “I know I've made life more difficult for myself, but I learn from my mistakes. I know I shouldn't have left him alone and I won't do it again. I won't allow him to get out of my sight unless he's chained to something or locked in a room. I accept that I should have paid attention to your warning about him being armed, but it wasn't you who had to deal with it, was it? I had to fight him and disarm him and it wasn't very easy. It was my mistake and I had to deal with it. When he went exploring, I didn't run to you to help me. It was my mistake and I dealt with it. I've made enough mistakes so far to be pretty confident that I won't make more, so give me space and don't try telling me what to do. Has anything gone drastically wrong? No! I've got him in control and no one's going to say I haven't.”

“Ok Ted,” Tom gasped, for Ted's grip had tightened. “Please let me up.”

Ted stepped back off him and straightened. Tom scrambled to his feet and stood still near the door where he'd been before.

“I do take your point Ted,” Tom said after a moment of silence. “And I'm sorry, but please listen to my thoughts on it.”

Ted shrugged. He'd listen, but he wasn't likely to agree.

“The way he keeps fighting reminds me of last time,” Tom explained.

“It's nothing like last time,” Ted protested.

The two brothers looked at each other then turned their gaze on Terry who sat quietly watching from a stool at the back of the room.

“Terry?” Tom posed the question first.

“What's your opinion?” Ted asked almost at the same time. “Tell us truthfully.”

Terry didn't answer at once but thought about it first. ”Well,” he began hesitantly. “I can see both your points of view.” his start was diplomatic, but his conclusion challenged both of them as he had never done. As he spoke he gained confidence and spoke his mind. “Taking the fighting for example,” he continued. “Last time he didn't fight in the tunnels, but he did fight. Last time he did explore, but he was careful and I'm sure he mapped everything on paper. Last time he was secretive, but Simon is very open and yet in being so he keeps his secrets better hidden. Yet all this is just circumstance. I think the question to be asked is why they fight. Why did he fight? Why does Simon fight? I could go into all kinds of complicated reasoning's, but they all come down to the same point. So do the questions, why do you always make sure you're fit and strong? And why do you make sure you win whatever the cost? It all comes down to one thing. Power. The establishment of power.”

They looked at him in astonishment. He'd never spoken like this before, but then they'd never asked him to.

“Let me explain,” he continued. “Tom. You always train so that you are the strongest. That's because you want something over Ted and I. Ted. You make sure you win so that no one can say that they should be in charge. Back then, he fought so that he could take over the tunnels and have power over this area. And as for Simon, he fights to prove that he isn't the underdog.”

“Underdog,” Ted repeated. “That's what I openly called him. You've hit it Terry. That's why he went off and fought. That's why we all fight.”

“Yes,” Tom grumbled his agreement. He knew it was true, whether he liked it or not.

“So you see,” Terry continued. “There are similarities in the root of the thing that causes dispute, but the reasons are different. They both want power, but one wanted control while the other wants to prove himself.”

Ted nodded. “I think you are right,” he said and looked across at Tom who was still watching Terry. 'I think it'd be wise for me to ask you both what you think of how I've handled things now.”

“You haven't told us what you've done,” Tom put in.

“You never gave me a chance,” Ted laughed.

“Well tell us then,” Tom smiled. He knew he hadn't given Ted a chance.

“Well,” Ted began. “I caught him, disarmed him and bound his wrists. I took him blindfolded to a secure cell in the line tunnels. I've shackled him and I'm going to make him submit. What do you think?”

“Risky,” Tom said without hesitation. “He'll submit, but he'll fight again. He won't give up. He said as much.”

“I think,” Terry suggested a little unsure of Ted and Tom's response. “Perhaps you shouldn't make him submit but wait for him to give up. It'd take a long time, but you'd establish control much more securely. He's only a boy.”

“I was going to do that,” Ted said quietly to Terry.

“I'm glad you didn't,” Tom cut in. “It'd just give him time to escape.”

“Why didn't you?” Terry asked quietly for he knew that Ted had been going to tell them.

“He wanted me to treat him as a man,” Ted replied. “The thing is,” Ted paused. “He's not strong enough.”

“Well, then that's his choice,” Terry observed. “He'll give quickly.”

“Yes,” Ted agreed. “And Tom, if he fights me or any of us again, I'll treat it as treachery.”

Tom thought hard about this. “He's only a boy,” he said at last, changing his stand drastically.

Ted laughed. “Yes,” he agreed. “But he wants to be treated as a man and I will treat him so.”

“Ok,” Tom agreed. “I'll go with your decision, but what about tonight's sailing.”

“It may well be off,” Ted replied. “The wind dropped I think. I thought it might.”

“I'll check,” Tom offered and left the room.

“Terry,” Ted said quietly once Tom had gone some way down the tunnel. “Why is it that you never fight Tom or me?”

“I've got no desire to be in control,” Terry answered calmly. “I'm just the third man in the crew and I'm happy to be so.”

“You're not just the third man,” Ted protested. “You're family.”

“And honoured to be so,” Terry smiled.

“Terry,” Ted suddenly brought up an issue that Tom and he had discussed for the last eleven and a half years, but neither of them had ever got up the courage to talk to Terry about it. “If Tom and I should die,” Ted said hesitantly. “You're our heir.”

“But Ted,” Terry started. “I'm not even an Archer. I might be your brother-in-law, but I haven't got your name.”

“Terry,” Ted said urgently. “Tim isn't interested and I… you know. Please. You're the only family we have. I don't care if the name Archer doesn't hold the tunnels. I just don't want the name of Ridge anywhere near this place. 'If any Ridge comes near this place I'll instantly kill him, or her. Unless of course it's him. Then I'll kill him slowly and hurt him for all he's done to me.”

“Ok Ted,” Terry reluctantly consented, seeing Ted's distress at the thought of a Ridge taking the tunnels. “Should anything happen I'll guard this place against them. I promise.”

“Thank you Terry,” Ted murmured and leant back against the wall.

A few moments later Tom came in with the news of no wind.

“If it's still dead in a few hours, could one of you send Nathan and Joe to tell the village that it's off for tonight? I've got to go and see to Simon.”

“Sure,” Tom nodded and Ted left the room.

 

12.2

Adrian fingered his well-used bow. He'd just strung it and was waiting in the line of soldiers who had to practice their archery. The commander was watching them and bellowing at anyone who missed the target. If they only just hit it they had to stand to one side and wait for later when they would practice until they hit it properly. If they missed they had to practice even more. Adrian wasn't worried. Until he'd seen the man on the roof, he'd practiced archery for at least an hour every day. Now that everyone was doing their duties, he could afford to practise again. He knew that he'd be able to hit the centre of the target without much difficulty. He hoped that his skill with the bow would get him into the commander's good book.

Alexander was just ahead of him and the man in front of Alexander was well known to be the worst archer in the fort, perhaps even the land.

“You shoot like a girl,” one of the other men taunted as he stepped up to the line and tried to fit an arrow to the string.

“At least I know how to use my sword,” he retorted to the man who had been jeering at him. It was true. He was a very good swordsman when he bothered. He drew back the arrow to the corner of his mouth as he'd been told to and let go. Adrian ducked down in case the arrow went backwards. He had seen it do so once before. This time however the arrow sprung in a straight line from the bow and clipped the corner of the target before accelerating over the wall in a rather different direction.

“I'll let it pass,” the commander grumbled. He knew that archery was not this man's strong point and he also knew that he tried his best, unlike many of the other men. “Go and practice some sword work,” he ordered and the young man ran off very pleased.

Alexander shot three arrows. All of them hit the target fairly well and the commander dismissed him. Then it was Adrian's tern.

“Let's see what you can do then Nite,” the commander said threateningly. He'd not yet seem Adrian's archery and was looking forward to making it difficult for him. “I'm expecting a lot from you,” he warned, trying to put Adrian off, but Adrian was not perturbed.

He strung his arrow, drew back, aimed and fired in a moment. He was by far quicker than any of the other men and he knew it. He also knew that he was more accurate. He wasn't surprised when his arrow sunk into the board just to the left of the centre. He turned and looked at the commander to see if he was free to go or not.

“Again,” the commander ordered, hoping that Adrian wouldn't shoot as well a second time so that he could criticise him.

Adrian nodded and turned back. As he turned he saw Alexander watching him from the side. His eyes were focused carefully on Adrian's every move. It slightly unnerved Adrian, but he drove the thoughts away and drew a second arrow. This time he hit the target just to the right of the centre.

“Come on Nite,” the commander snapped. “You've hit to either side, now hit the centre.” He doubted that Adrian would, but he did. He hit the exact centre and lowered his bow with satisfaction. Surely the commander would think differently of him now. He didn't.

“You need to get more finely tuned Nite,” he snapped. “You should be aiming for moving targets and hitting the centre. Get practising.”

Adrian simply nodded. That was no chore for him. He liked practising archery. He collected his arrows and left the main court. He'd practise in the field. He'd set up targets there a few months back. Now he'd use them again. He wouldn't miss. He never did. In fact he was better at shooting moving targets than stationary ones. Alexander followed him and watched in silence as Adrian shot one target after another. It was obvious that Adrian simply wouldn't miss a shot he took.

 

12.3

The bolts were drawn, the key turned in the lock and the door swung open. Ted entered the room and pulled Simon to his feet. Roughly he pushed him against the wall and tightened the strap that pulled his elbows together. Simon gasped but wouldn't allow himself to cry out. As soon as the strap was tightened, Ted let Simon fall to the ground again and left.

Simon knew the sequence well by the fifth time Ted came in. he struggled physically and mentally with his imprisonment. He wanted to be free, but he knew that he would never be. If he submitted, he wouldn't be free. He'd only be relieved from pain. Ted wouldn't let him out of his sight. Simon knew that well enough. At first the thought of liberty drove him to hold out, but now it began to appeal as freedom from pain. Perhaps by submitting he'd gain all the freedom he could.

When Ted came in next, Simon plucked up his courage to ask him what submitting really was.

“Please,” he began anxiously. “What happens if I submit? Where do I stand?”

“When you submit,” Ted replied precisely as he turned Simon to the wall and pressed him firmly there. “You will serve me and my friends. You will do whatever we tell you and you won't oppose us at all.”

“Right, so,” Simon gasped as Ted tightened the strap. “Will I get any freedom at all?”

“Not likely,” Ted replied as calm as ever. “To begin with, certainly not.”

Simon clenched his teeth and breathed hard through his nose to keep himself from crying out. His arms and shoulders hurt more than he thought possible. He knew that he would have to submit, but still he wanted to hold out. “I'm a man and I can hold out,” he made himself believe. He wasn't so confident.

Ted let him fall to the ground and left without another word.

The next time Ted came, Simon knew he had to give up. As Ted dragged him up from the floor of the cell he tried to work out what to say, but he didn't know. It was only when he was pinned against the wall that he tried to say anything at all.

“I give up,” he muttered with the edge of a whine in his voice. “I submit.”

Ted turned him round and looked hard at Simon's face. “You've decided to submit,” he checked quietly with one hand on Simon's shoulder and the other gripping the strap behind his back.

“Yes,” Simon half whispered. “I submit.”

In silence, Ted turned him to face the wall again and unbuckled the strap. Slowly he loosened it until he took the strap fully away. Then he loosened the shackles and let them fall from Simon's wrists.

“Come,” he ordered in a low voice and laid one hand on Simon's shoulder. He took Simon to a side chamber and put away the strap and shackles. Then he rummaged in a wooden box and found a short thin bronze chain with a very small lock. He took Simon's left hand, slipped the chain round his wrist and locked it. Next he blindfolded Simon and led him through the tunnels to where Tom and Terry were playing Chess to pass the time.

 

12.4

On entering, Ted un-blindfolded Simon and surveyed the board. “Tom,” he said with a laugh. “You've only taken two pawns and a knight since I left.”

Tom smiled and moved his pawn forward, diagonally from the cornered king, perfectly protected by his knight. “And checkmate,” he announced. 

“I can still move there,” Terry began and trailed off. “Or maybe not. It's those bishops of yours. Oh well, you win.” He pushed the chess board aside and got up.

“Sailing's definitely off,” Tom told Ted. “There's no wind, but I think you're right about it picking up after midnight. It's a pity we can't leave in the day.”

“Yes,” Terry agreed. “The cliff's bristling with watchmen like a hedgehog with spines.”

“Did I tell you that I went up and took a look at the soldiers?” Tom asked Ted.

“No,” Ted replied. “What have you seen?”

“Some of the men have throwing spears,” Tom said.

“It's a pity we can't wear chain mail on the boat,” Terry put in.

“Why can't you?” Simon asked quietly.

Tom and Terry glared at him as though he had no right to speak and certainly should have known that. Simon shrank back, but Ted didn't ignore the question.

“If you fall over board and you're wearing chain mail, you'll drown,” Ted explained simply.

Simon felt the blood rising to his face as he realised how obvious the answer was. He should have known, he told himself, but he hadn't.

“Not much use Buff coats are going to be against throwing spears,” Tom continued. “They're not like chain mail. Chain mail doesn't let anything through, most of the time.”

“I haven't yet seen a soldier who can throw a spear accurately,” Ted said confidently. “Some of them can shoot arrows, but they won't last long if they shoot at us. Hey, Terry.”

Terry laughed. “Yes,” he agreed. “If any of them take a close shot I'll make sure he doesn't shoot again.”

“Do we know who's on duty tomorrow night or not,” Tom asked Ted.

“No,” Ted shrugged. “I'm not too bothered either.”

“Well, I've got an hour to spare before I go fishing,” Tom said. “Is there anything you want me to do? Or can I go play cards with Nathan and Joe?”

“Go play cards,” Ted laughed. “I'm going to sort Simon out and then I'll check things out in the fort. Perhaps I could spy this Commander out.”

Tom left the room with a nod and Terry followed. Ted turned to Simon and smiled.

“Go on,” he invited. “Ask me. I know you want to ask something.”

Simon blushed and asked. “What's a buff coat?”

“Very basic body protection,” Ted replied. “It's made of tough leather. I'll show you.”

He went through a door at the back of the room which Simon hadn't noticed. A short while later he reappeared with a leather jacket over one arm. He showed it to Simon and let Simon feel how heavy it was.

“They are quite difficult to swim in,” Ted explained. “We can swim in them, but we're strong swimmers.” He put the buff coat away and rummaged in the back corner of the room some time before returning with some clothes and another buff coat. “Put these clothes on,” he told Simon. “I don't like you in those baggy clothes. You could hide anything in them.”

Simon smiled and obeyed. “It's short,” he noted once he'd dressed in the new tunic. He looked down at himself and didn't know if he liked it or not. “Short in the front and long at the back,” he mused.

“Yes,” Ted agreed. “That was the fashion when I was your age.”

“Were these your clothes then?” Simon asked amazed.

Ted nodded. “I think I was a bit older than you though,” Ted replied. “I was always a small boy. It hasn't changed much now I'm a man,” he jested.

“Everyone says that I'm small,” Simon semi complained. “I don't like being small.”

“Well, you'll just have to learn to deal with it,” Ted shrugged. “You're not going to be very small, but you're not going to be tall. I don't think, tall, would suit you.”

“Yes,” Simon agreed with a laugh. “I'm too thin to be tall.”

“You're more slight than thin,” Ted laughed. “But anyway.” He turned to a new subject. “Try on this buff coat. It should fit you so you can see what it's like.”

It did fit him and he was amazed at how much movement it allowed. It was of course restrictive, but not as much as Simon had feared. He took it off again and Ted put it away. Then Ted showed Simon a few of the tasks he'd be doing.

“You will help with the boat and guiding the villagers to the platform from the point where Nathan and Joe bring them,” Ted explained. “While we're out you can do what you like in the area I allocate to you. It might be just a room and it might be quite a number of tunnels. That depends on how you act.”

“May I have my sword to practice with when you're out?” Simon asked hopefully.

“No,” Ted answered shortly. He remembered Tom's warnings and wasn't going to make that mistake again. “I'll give you a stick if you want to practise your sword work.”

“That's good enough for me,” Simon agreed eagerly. He was disappointed that he couldn't have a sword, but at least he could do something. “Thank you,” he added and Ted laughed.

 

12.5

“Ha,” Simon declared as he disarmed an invisible enemy with his stick. It was in fact the move Ted had used to disarm him in the duel. It was well copied but Simon wasn't happy. He shook his head and stepped up as though to fight another invisible enemy. He dealt this foe a few remarkably unusual blows before twisting his sword round to disarm him, but pretending he'd failed to do so and defending himself against imagined attacks, all very strong and accurate. He was in the middle of parrying a false blow and ducking the following real one when Ted pushed the door open and near enough ran in to the room. He disappeared into the back room and reappeared with one arm in the short sleeve of a buff coat and another one in his right hand.

“Get that on and get down to the boat,” Ted ordered Simon as he turned back into the room to look for something more.

Simon dropped his stick and picked the buff coat up from where Ted had flung it. He pulled it on as quickly as he could and did up the buckles on the front, leaving the top two undone and the collar folded awkwardly down. 

“You'll have to do it up all the way,” Ted instructed as soon as he came out of the back room with his buff coat fully undone and another one tucked under his arm. “Come on,” he briskly added. “Let's go.”

About forty seconds later Simon found himself jumping down into the boat beside Ted. Tom sat on one side of the rowing bench and behind him a thick canvas was pulled tightly over not so taught ropes. Thus the bows of the boat were covered while the stern was very open.

“Take that ore,” Ted commanded as he grabbed the tiller. Simon obeyed without a word, but Tom complained.

“How am I meant to pull evenly with the boy,” he moaned at Ted.

“He's a sailor,” Ted retorted shortly. “I'm sure he can row.”

“Yes, but how well?” Tom muttered.

“Come on,” Ted said impatiently.

Simon dug his oar into the water and pulled firmly. Tom quickly pulled even. The first few strokes were out of time but quickly they found the rhythm and pulled perfectly together. Simon understood what Tom had meant when he complained, for it was difficult to keep up with Tom's strong long strokes, but he did it.

Ted finished buckling his buff coat with one hand and turned the boat out, away from the cliffs. A matter of seconds later an arrow flew past Ted's shoulder.

“Tom,” Ted hissed. “Hold the tiller steady. I'm going to shoot at them. I'm probably not practised enough to kill, but perhaps I'll put them off.”

“They won't stop,” Tom muttered. “Terry shot one dead and all we got was more arrows.” Another arrow came close to Ted's left arm and bounced off the boat side into the sea.

“There are only three,” Ted answered and picked Terry's bow up from the deck in front of him. “I can at least try and hit them. Terry's the only one practiced enough to kill.”

“I'm pretty practised,” Simon offered nervously.

“Would you be confidant of killing?” Ted asked ignoring his brothers fervent shaking of the head.

“Not hundred per cent certain, but pretty sure,” Simon answered shyly.

Ted handed him the bow and pointed to the quiver. “Quick then,” he muttered and spun round to kneel in front of the bench and take the ore. At that moment an arrow struck the stern of the boat just where Ted had been sitting.

Simon knocked an arrow to the string and dropped to his knees.

Ted sat down on the bench with his feet steadying the tiller. “Make a quick circle,” he hissed at Tom as Simon drew back the string.

Two arrows whizzed close to Simon as he aimed. One caught Tom on the shoulder, while the other struck the canvas behind them. Simon easily picked out the two archers and spotted the third taking aim. He decided to take him out before he shot. He released and let the powerful bow launch the arrow towards its target. Instantly he strung another arrow and aimed for the easier target. As he shot, the boat turned and the arrow slightly went astray. Furious with himself, Simon knocked another arrow to the string and shot again at the man. The first arrow hit, but only in the arm. The second killed the soldier. He reached to take another arrow, but Ted stopped him.

“That'll do,” He said. “Take the ore. One man can't do much, besides; he's running to the fort.”

Simon took the oar and Ted moved back to the tiller.

“He's not running,” Tom corrected. “He's talking to someone, but let's go while we can.”

A few minutes later they were in the open sea. Tom and Ted picked up the mast from where it lay down the centre of the boat, over the canvas, and lifted it into place. Simon clipped the mast ropes into place as though he'd been doing it for years on that boat. Then Ted rolled back the canvas, removing the arrow from where it had lodged and revealed the villagers huddled anxiously beneath. Simon was handed the jib rope and told to keep it steady while Tom took the rudder. Ted took the blindfolds off the villagers and then turned to Terry. Simon hadn't thought about Terry until then. He'd been too busy with things he'd not done before to think about why he was there. Now as he began to wonder, it became clear. Terry hadn't had his buff coat on and had been shot in his side. He was injured too badly to shoot or do any difficult task, but he hadn't been killed.

“Are you all right?” Ted asked him quietly. “Sorry we didn't help you more straight away.”

Terry smiled weakly. “There was no time to do more than you did. Thank you for doing what you did.”

Simon watched him intrigued as he half sat, half lay, in the bows with a quiver of arrows at his side. He looked as though he was all right but Simon knew that he couldn't be as well as he appeared if Ted had called Simon to help in the boat. Simon knew that Tom really didn't trust him and for Ted to get Simon to help in the boat, Tom had to have agreed. That meant that they'd had no other option.

“I'm sure I could man this boat with just two,” Simon said to himself.

Behind him Ted laughed and stepped over the bench to sit beside Simon. “You could on the open sea in good weather, Yes, I'm sure,” he averred quietly, so as to avoid the others hearing what he was saying. “But if the weather gets rough and we try to enter the harbour, there could be problems.”

“What harbour?” Simon asked. He'd not heard of there being a harbour where they were taking the villagers.

“The natural harbour,” Ted replied. “Formed by the rocks and the cliffs.”

“It's not difficult to get in,” Simon said surprised.

“You haven't seen it in rough weather yet,” Ted retorted. “Things get dangerous then if you don't know exactly what you're doing.” Memories flashed into his head as he thought of close incidents when the weather had been bad. “It's saved us a couple of times,” Ted added with a smile. “I mean, us knowing what we were doing and others not. We could get through easily, most of the time.”

“Have you ever crashed on the rocks?” Simon asked suddenly interested.

“No,” Ted smiled. “We've come close to it. Once we touched and damaged the boat, but we've never crashed. I doubt we'd be here if we had.”

“Are the rocks that dangerous?” Simon asked astonished.

“I'm yet to meet a man who has crashed on the rocks and survived, without our help,” Ted answered calmly. “We don't tend to help people either,” he added.

“But you have helped some,” Simon checked.

“Two,” Ted replied without expression. “One was a young sailor boy who we knew the parents of. His boat got a leak and he tried to get into shore quickly and crashed. We saw it and pulled him out before he got in serious trouble. He now sails with my youngest brother. The other man I regret saving. He was the man who later betrayed me.”

“The fight that no one won,” Simon checked in a whisper.

“Yes,” Ted confirmed in a distant murmur. “If I ever lay my hands on him, I'll throw him on the rocks where I should have left him in the first place.”

There was a long moment of silence before Simon spoke again.

“Was it this boat that you damaged on the rocks?” he asked.

“No,” Ted smiled. “I've never come near to crashing the Dianna. That was the All Fear.” Suddenly he laughed. “All Fear to get on board. That was possibly the most badly built boat I've ever encountered. That's saying something. My brother builds some pretty atrocious boats.”

“Is that the same brother as the boy sails with?” Simon checked quickly.

Ted nodded. “I only have two brothers.”

“What happened to the All Fear?” Simon asked.

“It fell apart,” Ted laughed. “We had a small lifeboat with us so we didn't have to swim, but we were glad that we didn't have cargo.”

“Have you had many boats?”

“Quite a few,” Ted agreed. “After the All Fear, we borrowed one of my brothers acquired boats. That was much better built. We kept that until the Dianna was built. Before the All Fear we had a boat called the Sea-Horse. That was captured by pirates. And before that we used my father's boat, the Susannah. He kept that one when he retired and settled down with my brother.”

“Where do the names come from?” Simon asked, always interested to find out something new. “I mean like the Sea-Horse and the Dianna.”

“I like riding and because the Sea-Horse was my first boat I named it that because it was like a horse on the sea.” Ted explained. “Dianna was my wife's name,” he added in a quiet distant voice, almost reluctantly.

“Did she die,” Simon whispered falteringly.

Ted shook his head sadly. “She was murdered,” he sighed. “By that same traitor.”

“I don't blame you for wanting to kill him,” Simon said quietly. “If someone had murdered my mother I'd want to kill them. It must be even closer with your wife.”

Ted nodded, but there was more to it than that and Simon could see it. “I've never heard your mother mentioned,” Ted observed.

“Probably because we don't know anything about her,” Simon replied. “I don't remember her. My father didn't like talking about her. He said she died, but nothing else. I've always wanted to know more, but I won't ever now.”

“Doesn't Nathan know anything?” Ted asked.

Simon shook his head. “I don't mind though,” he said after a moment. “I would have liked to meet her because I must take after her a lot, but I can't so it doesn't matter.”

“Yes,” Ted smiled.

“Take the tiller a bit Ted,” Tom called across.

Ted rose and went to the stern, leaving Simon to hold the jib alone as before.

The rest of the sailing was silent and boring for Simon who had to keep the jib rope secure to whichever side they required. On the way back the three smugglers were much freer among themselves, talking and laughing together. Terry was mostly just sitting down and watching the rest do the work, until they came to the rocks. Then he took the tiller and kept a steady course while the others took down the mast and picked up the ores.

Ted and Simon rowed while Tom took the tiller from Terry. Terry sat on the bench and fingered his bow. He was not strong, but he reckoned that he could do it if he didn't also have to keep a tiller steady.

Almost as soon as they entered the harbour an arrow hissed through the air and struck Terry on the shoulder. It caught on the buff coat, but didn't go through.

“Looks like they're expecting us,” Ted mused.

Terry nodded as he drew back his bow and aimed for the archer who was partly hiding behind a shield. Before he could aim properly he realised that he couldn't hold the drawn bow steady and released. The arrow thudded into the shield and Terry dropped his bow.

“I can't do it,” He panted and pressed the wound on his side. “I can't hold it to aim.”

Another arrow flew close over Terry's head.

“There's the other archer,” Ted observed. “They're both good.”

“Simon, you shoot,” Terry said and pushed his bow across to Simon who was rowing steadily with Ted.

Both Ted and Simon put down the ores and looked at Tom.

The first archer fired again, clipping Simon on the left shoulder where the arrow left a thin cut in the leather.

“Tom, take the oar,” Ted ordered. “Terry, take the tiller.”

Terry moved to the tiller. Tom moved to where Simon was sitting and Simon slid along the bench to the centre beside the mast. He picked up an arrow, strung it and drew back the bowstring.

Both the archers on the cliffs shot. The man with the shield caught Ted in the chest as he stood up to pull the canvas over the front of the boat. Again the buff coat stopped the arrow harming him and he pulled it out and dropped it in the bottom of the boat. The second archer shot close to Simon's head again, this time just to the right, between him and Tom.

Simon aimed for the man who was hitting them and loosed the arrow, just as the man stepped behind his shield to hide while he readied to shoot again. The arrow struck the rim of the shield, exactly where the man had been a moment before.

Ted leaned over Tom with a wooden pin in one hand and a loop of rope in the other. He pulled the rope tight and struggled to put the loop over a short wooden post on the side of the boat. Simon knocked another arrow, drew back and aimed at the other archer. The first archer sprung forward from behind his shield.

Ted got the loop of rope over and pushed the peg through the post to stop it slipping off again. On the cliffs the first archer pointed at the three of them, one against the other, a target impossible to miss. Simon turned his bow to shoot the archer who was pointing and rapidly released lest the man should duck behind his shield again. The arrow struck the man in his right arm and missed killing him by too long a way for Simon's liking. The other archer aimed carefully and released. Simon didn't have time to duck as the arrow flew towards their small group. Ted and Tom saw it fly, but had no time to respond. It flew at eye level towards them and they all feared for their lives. The archer couldn't easily miss, but he did. The flights of the arrow brushed Ted's cheek as the arrow disappeared between Simon and Ted, only a hair's breadth away from harming them, probably fatally.

Simon drew to shoot at the archer who had miraculously missed, but Ted stayed him.

“No, don't shoot,” he said quickly. “I think I know who it is.”

Simon nodded and turned to shoot the first archer who, even with a wounded arm, was drawing back his bow to fire. Simon checked his aim carefully. He didn't want to miss again. The archer fired. The arrow struck and Simon lost his grip on the bowstring. His arrow flew and stuck firmly in the upper arm of the archers bow, rendering it useless.

When Ted saw the arrow strike Simon in the neck, he was certain that it had gone through the leather. To confirm his fears a spot of blood appeared on the leather. He seized the short bow he kept under the bench and strung it quickly. Then he took an arrow from Terry's quiver and loosed it at the archer as he ducked down to the ground.

'Row,' Terry ordered as he never had. Ted dropped his bow, jumped across to the far side of the boat, grabbed the oar and pulled. He pulled even to Tom's stronger strokes as he rarely did. A few minutes later they were too close to the cliff to be shot at and a few more strokes later they drew alongside the platform.

Ted didn't instantly get out of the boat as usual. He turned to Simon and looked hard at him. Tom also turned, but he was more practical. He unbuckled the buff coat as far as the neck and felt inside the jacket for the arrow tip.

“I'm all right,” Simon protested. “I'm not hurt.”

Tom smiled and pulled the arrow out. “It's only a small cut,” he told Ted. “Only just enough to draw blood.”

“We need to deal with that archer,” Ted growled.

“I think you got him Ted,” Terry smiled grimly.

“Do you think the other one was…?” Tom began.

“Yes,” Ted answered, knowing what his brother was thinking, and this time getting it right.

“Why do you think he was…?” Tom began to ask again.

“I'm going to find out,” Ted replied and stood up. “Come on.”

 

12.6

I went down across the fields near the fort. It was a beautiful morning and I felt as free as the birds that twittered in the small coppice about half a mile from the village, a little inland and towards the harbour. Before the war my family used to go down there and have picnics in the shade of the trees, but now the wood was void of human noise. The soldiers came to believe that it was haunted and would never go near it. It could have been a safe haven, except that there was some basis for the soldiers fear. The truth was that since the war began, anyone who went to the wood never came back.

I had hidden my rapier so that if I met a soldier, he wouldn't challenge me, not that I expected any soldier would. I did it because Jude asked me to. But I went at Paul's advising. He said I should get out even if I spied on the fort while I did it. He doubted that the soldiers would bother with one solitary villager taking a walk. I also doubted that they would. That was why I went. I'm glad now that I did go that morning and not another.

I often liked looking at the lighthouse when I was younger and wondering how such a magnificent structure would have been built. I used to dream of working in a lighthouse like that one and guiding the ships in to harbour safely. As I looked up at the lighthouse that day I remember wondering how it was that an entire army could fail to look after the thing after which their defence was named. As I stood there I heard a noise behind me, as of a horse. It didn't make sense to me. I remember thinking, 'the soldiers here don't have horses,' and turning to see what it was.

It was a horse. What else could it be? The difference was that the man on it was not a soldier. He was a civilian like me. His clothes were good and he looked healthy, but he was not a soldier. I'd never seen him before and I've not seen him again since, but what did it matter to me then. He was one of us. Just a man with a horse.

“Go back to your village,” he told me. “It's not safe for anyone to be out. The new Captain will move quickly once he knows that the village is inhabited. You must prepare your village for the siege. You will have help, but it may be delayed. Be ready.”

I nodded and turned away. He also turned and rode away, inland. I returned to the village as he'd said I should, but I didn't know what to do next. The next night's sailing would be very late and I knew that Jude was busy helping to organise who was going. He wouldn't have time to listen to what I had to say. I wondered if I should tell Paul, but I decided not to. I would just wait for when Jude was less busy I thought. I didn't know then that things would only get busier.

 


Submitted: July 17, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Cwester. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Julie March

I liked how you threw in that mystery at the end about the man on the horse, although I have a sneaking suspicion of who it is. Great work!

Wed, July 18th, 2012 7:25pm

Author
Reply

You're probably right. I'm glad there is some mistery though.

Wed, July 18th, 2012 1:23pm

andreamay

Being the first chapter of the other half of your novel it's justifyingly seething with action without losing anything of its charm. But then just because of that I devived this comment according to your subchapters. First goes the impression, then some corrections if necessary. It was handier for me that way so I hope it would suit you better too.
12. 1
There is an exquisite dialog in this subchapter. It's getting more and more heated to reach its climax in fighting, but then it gets resolved in Terry's calm reasoning. It flows so naturally! So smoothly! At the same time it gives us some more insight about this threesome, about their relationship and yet it adds more to the mystery. Hm! Who is this Ridge now? We've met him in the very title of the novel, but still...
Quote: Ted sighed and resigned himself to getting an ear full from... ("earful" - needless to say I looked up in a dictionary, always do that)
Quote: "What do you mean' Tom... (the quotation mark after mean")
Quote: Ted held out his hands in defence. He tried to protest but Tom over ruled him ("overruled" - checked)
Quote: "I can see both your points of view." his start was diplomatic... ("His" - capital letter.
This one is tricky. Quote: "... That's because you want something over Ted and I..." (it's about preposition "over". I had a feeling that it should be "over Ted and me", I found some examples, but the most familiar to you could be from The Bible, Psalm 35:19 "Let not those rejoice over me " (English Standard Version); or John 19: 11 - Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me..." (English Standard Version). But it still could be obsolete in contemporary spoken English, but then, I wouldn't know about that.
Quote: ...he said and looked across at Tom who was still watching Terry. 'I think... (just a quotation mark "I think...)
12.2
The archery exercise is great, along with some funny remarks about possibility of an arrow flying backwards. It happened to me (even though the bow was hand-made by my little son). So when I see how realistic this detail is (having a personal experience about it) I should trust you about everything else I have no experience about. Does it make sense to you?
Quote: He'd not yet seem Adrian's archery... ("seen")
12.3
I suppose you needed Simon out of there to place him aboard the ship. But you did it so skillfully that it made me ache for him.
The second paragraph. Quote: Simon knew the sequence well by the fifth time Ted came in. he struggled... (capital letter "He")

12.4
Being curious and not knowing anything about armour, I looked up on the internet for buff coats. You described it accurate to the last detail, it looks exactly how I imagined it.
12.5
Oh, this subchapter kept me breathless from the beginning to the end. It's just perfect! Everything is in its place, dialog, action, suspense... For the moment I was nearly convinced Simon had been at least heavily wounded and I was about to protest and beg you for his life!
corrections:
After Ted's revealing about having two brothers. Quote: "After the All Fear, we borrowed one of my brothers acquired boats, (apostrophe missing "of my brother's acquired boats")
12.6
Well, this is a cherry on this cake (this marvaless chapter): THE MAN on the horse...

Sun, May 25th, 2014 11:27am

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading and commenting. I've made all those corrections on my computer. I'm glad youaid about that "over ted and I/me", because I wasn't sure about it. Most people say me, but the spoken English of the English isn't particularly anything to go by, so I wasn't sure.

I've also esperienced an arrow going backwards and it was rather alarming as I was standing behind the archer at the time. It was too close for comfort!
I've never actually seen or worn a buffcoat, but I described them from how I imagined them from what I'd read about them, so I am delighted that I got it right.

I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter. I loved writing this book.

Tue, May 27th, 2014 1:45pm

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