Chapter 17:

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

Reads: 210
Comments: 2

17.1

Simon sat up suddenly and stared across the room. He couldn't sleep. He was too alert. He knew that he had slept for about half an hour, but now he couldn't be much more awake. Memories of the storm kept replaying through his mind, each time taking a different view. The view from the rowing bench, the view from the tiller. Strangely the view he'd never seen from the bows looking back at Tom and Ted struggling to keep steady against the wildly thrashing waters. He found an odd view looking down on the rocks as he knew them, a line of solid stone that formed a wall through the sea. He ran the parting in the rocks through his head and traced the route he'd taken through it. The parting had to be wider than he'd first thought. Was it possible that the rocks weren't so solid a line as he'd first thought?

He pushed the blanket aside and felt for his stick. It was just where he'd left it. He closed his fingers round the hard wood and smiled. He had his weapon beside him as always, easily within reach, ready to fight. He hated being unprepared. He had always hated being unprepared and that had nothing to do with his upbringing. Nathan and Joe were never ready, but he was. His father was in some way a little like that. He was ready to fight and always had his weapons close at hand, but Simon was even more ready than his father. He got up and pulled on his sandals. He had never liked boots. He paced once round the room, checking that everything was as it should be, then he raised his stick to advance upon his adversary.

Simon was sorry that there was no one there. He loved fighting, just as Nathan loved doing well from trade, just as Joe loved the pretty girl who he'd spotted in the second last fight with Narvis. Simon suddenly thought about this girl. She had been on Narvis's boat and had handed the men water when they weren't fighting, but when they'd taken the ship, she had escaped with about two thirds of the crew in the life boats. It had been only for Joe's wish to meet her that he'd worked with Simon in engineering the encounter with Narvis in the last fight. Nathan didn't really want to fight. He only really wanted to trade, but it was the family thing, and after all, Joe and Simon had a right to carry on the fight their parents had begun. Joe had admitted his love to Simon after seeing the girl. Simon had laughed it off, but Joe had been serious.

“Come on Joe,” Simon had mocked. “She won't want to know you. She's one of them. She's an enemy. They fight us, not Love.” But for all Simon's scorn, he admired his cousin in an odd way. He had also noticed the fair haired girl with twinkling blue eyes who seemed to smile even in the midst of the battle, although not at it. She was pretty and Simon couldn't deny it. Joe had good taste.

Suddenly drawing his thoughts back from these things he realised that he was standing in the middle of the room with his stick raised and had not made a move. He conjured up an opponent. Tall with blue eyes and brown hair. Right handed and very quick. He was fighting with a long spear and a large round shield. He had a thick gold chain round his neck and he thought that he was the best in the world at anything and everything.

Simon smiled inwardly at his made up enemy. A bit of a cross between several people he knew, mostly his father and Narvis. Then he scowled at the man he was imagining, daring him to attack.

Simon's stick danced in the air as he parried the blows from the pretend spear. He ducked and parried then he tried to leap past the spear and attack. Judging his angles Simon realised as he jumped, that if the man had been where he'd thought, he would have been caught with the spear in his side. He pretended to real back, trying to get his balance. As he fake staggered, he realised that a blow to his side would have almost certainly knocked him down. He pretended to fall and smiled to himself as he thought of the options left to his opponent. The simplest of course, was to strike a simple blow down into his chest or neck and kill him.

Simon sat up. Perhaps he would do well to consider how he'd get at a spear man should he be faced by one. He had fought spear men before on the boats, but he'd always been one of a group, mostly consisting of spear men. He would simply duck under the spears and attack from the side or the bottom while the other's distracted the men. What would he do if he was alone fighting a spearman? Joe would run, but Simon wasn't a coward. Nathan would try and talk his way past the spear man or out of the situation, but Simon wasn't a political kind of person. He would fight, but how would he win? He sat down on the bed for a few minutes to think before getting up and facing the same spear man again. He wanted to win this time.

 

17.2

I looked out of the tower window and felt for the first time how much of a prison that room was to me. I was now the watcher and the watcher was the Captain. The door was locked as it always was, but for the first time I felt trapped. Before the Watcher had always come and kept me company. So had Able. Now I knew that below me they were fighting for their lives. Able would help the Watcher, but it would be difficult all the same. I wanted to protect the watcher. They were all vulnerable, but the watcher was particularly vulnerable, being reliant on others for so many simple things.

I looked out of the window and watched the soldiers putting up ladders against the walls and advancing on the castle. Always advancing, driven on by the relentless will of their commander, once mine. I could see him strutting up and down through the village like an over grown cockerel who loved to kick and crow. His chain male was as usual, ridiculously short. I thought to myself how arrogant it was. He refused to wear any decent body or head protection. “I won't get hurt,” he always had stated and remarkably he hadn't, yet. I wanted desperately to change that. If I had been allowed a weapon and the room to throw or shoot at him, I would have instantly done so. I wanted to help and what better way than killing the enemy's commander.

I looked longingly out at the battle. I was glad not to be a soldier in it, but I wasn't fighting for the people either. What would the village do? Would they be able to hold out? Would they obey the Watcher? If they didn't, how could they win? The watcher was the only one who could lead them. I knew it and at the same time I realised that they wouldn't take orders from any one unless they showed even greater resolve than Jude did. I knew that the watcher had that resolve, but I doubted that the men would see it.

As though to confirm my fears, as I watched, the soldiers began to climb the ladders and a large group of them advanced on the main door with a battering ram, unhindered. No one tried to stop them. No one defended the castle.

I didn't want to watch any more. I didn't want to see the village's doom drawing near, but I couldn't turn away. I suddenly realised what it meant to be a watcher and I didn't like it. It made me admire the watcher in a new way yet again.

 

17.3

Joe squeezed his eyes closed. He didn't want to be awake. He was too comfortable. The room was warm and his blanket was tucked up over his mouth so that only his nose and eyes showed. The straw-filled mattress was soft and smelt freshly of land. There was nothing to remind him of the sea and he liked that. He thought of the villagers in the castle and smiled. He was glad he wasn't there in the cold damp old building. Castles were always cold and damp. So were caves, but these weren't. He smiled about that too.

Nathan hugged himself and looked up at the rock ceiling. He knew he hadn't slept long, but he'd slept well. All his weariness had left him and a satisfied feeling of accomplishment ran through him. He'd done now what he'd wanted to do. He'd helped the villagers. There were obviously more that needed help, but he'd done what he could when he could. Suddenly he thought of those who were still in the castle. Would the soldiers attack as Ted had suggested. Ted had gone with Terry and Tom to take more villagers to their new home before the soldiers attacked the castle. That was what Ted had told them when he'd given them their food. How long would it be before the soldiers did attack? What would those who hadn't escaped yet do then?

“Joe,” Nathan whispered. “Are you awake?”

Joe grunted, reluctant to admit that he was.

“Joe,” Nathan went on. “Do you think the soldiers will attack the castle?”

“I don't know,” Joe yawned. “Ted seems to think they will. Why?”

“What will the villagers do if the soldiers do attack them?” Nathan asked, bouncing his thoughts off his son.

“They'll fight,” Joe replied turning onto one side and letting his legs fall over the edge of the bunk. “That's what Jude said they would do. He said that he'd kill any soldiers who came. They all would.” He sat up, the blanket still round his shoulders.

“Yes,” Nathan agreed. “But they can't hold out against a whole fort of well provisioned soldiers.”

“Are the soldiers well provisioned?” Joe asked dubiously.

“I would assume so,” Nathan replied. “They take food were ever they go so I would think that they would have provisions.”

“The village also have food,” Joe put in. “We gave them food.”

“That won't last them long,” Nathan replied and sat up. He pulled on his boots and got to his feet. “We're running low on food again and we've only given them a little each time.”

“We're not low on food are we?” Joe said in disbelief. “How come?”

“Well we've given each villager who left a ration of food and Ted and the others have bought food from us. We're down to our last food now. There's only about four days left.”

“Oh that's loads,” Joe relaxed. “I don't think the villagers will have that much by now.”

“When Ted comes back,” Nathan suggested, “We can ask him if we can give the villagers in the castle some more food and go to our home and bring more from there. What do you say?”

“We could,” Joe said, slightly hesitantly.

“What's the matter,” Nathan demanded, noticing his son's reluctance.

“Well,” Joe replied, still hesitantly. “We haven't got enough for a whole village and the sea's stormy. I don't like the sea when it's stormy. I feel a bit sea sick.”

“I wouldn't go out when it's stormy,” Nathan laughed. “No. not I.” this reassurance comforted Joe. “Although I would go out to help the villagers if it was desperate,” Nathan added after a moment's more thought and Joe's heart dropped again.

“So if they really needed food you'd go and get it,” he said dismally.

“I'd rather help them get out of the country so that they can help themselves a bit,” Nathan replied. “You know, supply the means for them to stand on their own two feet.”

“Yes,” Joe agreed, quite relieved. “I'd also rather do that.”

Nathan headed over to the dirty bowls that stood on the table. The bucket of water didn't look inviting. “I wish we had a fire to heat the water,” he muttered.

Joe nodded. “They have a fire somewhere,” he stated. “They always heat food and stuff. They bring hot water, so they must have a fire and I bet Simon's sitting in front of it right now.”

“I doubt it,” Nathan murmured in a way that Joe could choose not to hear. He didn't want to get into another argument with Joe about Simon. Who Simon's mother was didn't bother Nathan. It wasn't Simon's fault, but Joe hated Simon for it. They had been good friends before, but prejudice had turned Joe's friendship into hate and Simon had provoked it by fighting. Nathan hoped that it would sort itself out, but he doubted that it would. Rumours weren't often true, but they were difficult to crush. He'd crushed the rumour about his wife and her brother having an affair, but he didn't know how to put down this one and until he did, Joe would hate his cousin.

Joe lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes again. He didn't want to get up. That would mean being made to wash up with cold water.

Nathan smiled as he saw Joe lie down again. He decided to relax a bit more. There was no point in staying up and doing nothing. He scooped up the pack of cards as he passed the games table and sat down on the edge of his bed. He laid out the cards across the pillow and turned over his first card.

King of Diamonds.

 

17.4

 I spoke. They weren't listening to Able when he told them what I wanted them to do, so I spoke. In fact I shouted. “Be quiet,” I stuttered as I always do when I speak. There was a stunned silence and I went on. I spoke and for once they listened. Then they obeyed.

Andrew, a man who had a crooked nose and teeth that jutted out like a rabbits, made a joke about my stutter as he headed off to the gate where I'd sent him. I decided then to make an example of him to show them all that I wouldn't take nonsense. I called him back. He turned and smiled patronizingly. “Don't you even think of making fun of me,” I said loudly so that many of the men stopped in the doorways and looked towards me and Andrew.

“I'm not making fun,” he retorted with a put-on stammer.

I'd given him one chance and he'd mocked me even more. That was why I looked him straight in the eyes and hit him. True, he wasn't expecting it, but all the same I knocked him down. I looked down at him where he lay on the ground and he stared up with a shocked expression. Then, he slowly got to his feet and backed away from me. One of the other men shouted at him to apologise. After a moment's hesitation; and it was the very slightest of moments, he obliged. He apologised and then ran out like a frightened rabbet. One of the men, not the one who had shouted at him, followed him and returned to say that he had taken up his guard at the main door. I nodded and gestured for them to all go to their respective duties. Nearly instantly I was alone in the big hall.

I moved from post to post, checking that everyone could do their tasks without difficulty. When I discovered that one window had a particularly good vantage point for archery, I sent Johnny to man it and when later I discovered that the soldiers had given up in one area and were trying to get in through a different set of windows, I moved Andrew from the gate and Able from the tower by Johnny, to man and fight where the new attacks were being made.

I was surprised at how willing the men were to do as I instructed. Even Adam obeyed without argument. And that was when I realised that I wasn't afraid of speaking. No one dared take the Mickey. No one dared pretend that they couldn't understand. I knew they could understand and if they pretended that they couldn't, the other men would have treated them like an idiot. They had respect for me. No one argued. Even the women helped when I asked them. The men didn't protest at this either as they usually did. They just showed the women what to do as I instructed them. Truly all hands were on deck as the sailors would say. Anyone who could help did do something, or so I thought until it was pointed out to me that there was someone else, someone I'd not thought about since the battle began, but was often in mind the rest of the time.

 

17.5

Ted looked at the sea churning on the sand. The clouds were being driven apart, but the wind was changing direction.

“We can't get back in this weather,” he stated to the others who were standing beside him.

“We can,” Tom argued. “It won't be easy, but we can.”

“I don't know about you Tom, but I'm exhausted,” Ted replied with a weary sigh. “In all honesty I can't pull against the wind and waves again. We haven't slept since before we came out here last time and it was hard work then. I'm just too tired to struggle back now.”

“I'm also tired, but this time it's Terry with us and not the boy,” Tom persisted.

Ted just looked at Terry.

“I don't think I can do it,” Terry said hesitantly. “My side hasn't healed properly yet and I'm not as strong as I should be.”

“All right,” Tom relented. “But we can't stay here. There's nowhere to stay.”

“We could go to the town and the harbour,” Terry offered.

“And pay mooring fees,” Ted added cynically. “No thank you. We haven't got an income at the moment, and it may be several years before the villagers have anything to pay to us.”

“Good point,” Terry accepted Ted's judgment. “Well what about Tim's place. It isn't too far and the wind's in that kind of direction.”

Ted calculated the distance. As Terry said, it wasn't very far.

“It'll probably take us an hour at most,” Tom stated just before Ted came to the same conclusion. “It might be a bit tricky to follow the line of the shore, but even if we make a loop across the sea to the harbour it won't take us long and it will be easier than struggling back.”

“All right,” Ted agreed. “Let's go to Zyaris house.”

They picked up the boat and carried it down to the water. Ted pushed it out this time while Tom took an oar and Terry took the tiller. Ted then got in and picked up the other ore. They rowed a short distance from the shore before raising the mast and sail. The wind easily caught the sails and tossed the light boat from wave to wave. They kept away from the shore most of the time, but always kept it with in sight. Night was setting in fast and with the wind coming along the shore, often near to behind them, they made good speed. Then the channel loomed ahead of them with a line of forts on the land to their right and the harbour opening on their left. They took down the sail and lowered the mast. In better weather they could easily sail into the harbour, but when the wind blew hard, the channel became a nightmare to navigate with raised sails. Once again they rowed into the harbour and around the same boats as before.

“It doesn't look like Tim's got any new boats,” Ted commented.

Tom smiled. He had only just begun to wonder.

They tied up beside the same two small boats at the quay side and got out. Ahead of them, through the lane of trees, Zyaris house looked just as warm and welcoming as always and there, on the key side stood Tim, a broad smile on his face. Three sailors were unloading some crates from one of the larger ships, but Tim had lost all interest in that when he saw the Dianna making its way to the quay.

“Ted! Tom!” he yelled and ran to his brothers. “Terry. Good to see you all so soon. Come! Come!”

And of course they did.

 


Submitted: July 17, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Cwester. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Julie March

Glad to see the development with The Watcher finally speaking, and the men gaining some respect for him. Another great chapter, as always!

Wed, July 25th, 2012 3:19am

Author
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Glad you liked that development. There is more to the watcher than anyone guesses. Did you guess why the watcher didn't speak before? Thanks again for the comments. Much appreciated.

Wed, July 25th, 2012 9:01am

andreamay

What a chapter! Simon's getting ready to fight some spearman. Another first person narrative by the soldier, for he is the watcher now. And watcher is the leader and he SPOKE! Was his stammering the reason for his previous silence?
Corrections. 17.1 The last paragraph. Quote: Perhaps he would do well to consider how he'd get at a spear man... ("spearman")
Quote: He had fought spear men before... ("spearmen")
Quote: Nathan would try and talk his way past the spear man... ("spearman")
Quote: He sat down on the bed... and facing the same spear man again. ("spearman")
17.2 The second paragraph. Quote: I could see him strutting... like an over grown cockerel... ("overgrown")
17.4 Quote: He apologised... like a frightened rabbet. ("rabbit")
17.5 Quote: Ahead of them..., Zyaris house..., on the key side stood Tim... ("quay side")

Mon, May 26th, 2014 10:55pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading and commenting. Corrections are made on my computer.
Yes. The Watcher never spoke before because of the stammer. That is why there is such a reaction when the Watcher does speak.
I may have to rewrite that bit with simon pretending to fight a spearman as it has less significance than I'd like, but I'll wait for now as I've got another project to finish first.

Tue, May 27th, 2014 2:43pm

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