Chapter 19:

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

Reads: 234
Comments: 3

19.1.

Simon unlocked the chain from the ring in the side chamber where he'd left Adrian.

“Ok,” he said quietly and pressed the tip of his stick against Adrian's throat. “No tricks. Just take me to the castle.”

Adrian nodded and watched Simon as they left the chamber, heading down a broad tunnel away from the sea, delving deep into the cliffs. All the time Simon kept a tight hold on the chain that still held Adrian's arms behind his back. His stick was always ready to use if Adrian should try to run or fight. He had disarmed Adrian in the chamber just before he unchained him from the wall, but still he wasn't taking chances. Even if Adrian was under Ted's rule, he was a soldier and by the looks of things, didn't care that he was likely to die. Perhaps he was risking his life to kill someone. People did that kind of thing.

They went through the tunnels for a long way before coming into a large hall. Here the tunnels branched off in all directions. Adrian paused to take his bearings before entering a small, inconspicuous passage leading off from the far wall. Soon Simon noticed that they were passing a row of doors, very closely set together. He wondered what lay behind them, but there was no time to stop and look. Besides, Ted had told him not to go exploring. He was already breaking the rules and he didn't want to push it further. Ted would know.

They turned at last through a very low arch under which Simon could only just stand and mounted a narrow flight of spiral stairs. Simon could hear Adrian breathing heavily and felt for himself how close the air seemed to be. The tunnel at the top of the stairs hardly looked encouraging. It narrowed to a space only just wide enough for Adrian to walk and so low that even Simon had to duck. He could tell that Adrian didn't like it, but they went on. There were no branching passages or side tunnels here. There was only one way to go. The tunnel started to slope steeply up and Adrian struggled to keep up his pace. Simon kept close in behind him gripping his stick tightly. Then the path forked. Adrian paused and looked at the fork as though trying to remember which way to go. Then he took the right hand way. The tunnel continued to rise, and the roof continued to drop. Simon was ducking quite a bit when suddenly the tunnel ended. A door was directly in front of them but Adrian didn't move to it. Instead he pointed up at the roof which had suddenly risen up a little, just enough for Adrian to stand up.

Simon glanced up and saw the smooth stone that blocked the exit Adrian assured was there. An old iron staple half way up the wall was all that had ever been set up to serve as a ladder or step. Simon looked at Adrian and wondered suddenly if he'd wait or run back to the fort. He decided not to take the risk. He slipped the chain through the iron staple and locked it. Then he looked back up at the trap door.

“I think it comes out at the foot of the stairs to the dungeons,” Adrian whispered.

“What if the dungeon door is locked,” Simon muttered coldly.

“I doubt it will be, but if it is, I've got a large lock pick in my pocket. You best take it with you.”

'You seem to have thought of everything,' Simon observed and searched through Adrian's pockets. He found the pick and a pocket knife. He decided not to take the pocket knife, although he was tempted. Then he jumped up and got one foot on the iron staple while supporting himself against the walls. He closed his eyes and pushed hard at the stone above him. To his astonishment he felt it move. He pushed again, more firmly. Dust showered down onto them and coated them with a thick grey powder. A third push raised the door up a little and with some difficulty Simon forced it fully out of the way. There was no hinge on the stone which in a way made it more difficult, but Simon succeeded in opening it. Above it was as dark as below. He climbed out and shook the dust off him like a dog getting out of water. Then he looked round. There were stairs running up just as Adrian had said. Simon took them. The door at the head of the stairs was closed. Simon tried the handle, certain it would be locked. It opened. Simon took a deep breath before going on. He was inside the castle.

 

19.2

I was overseeing the setting up of traps at the main door when Johnny ran in. he had his bow in one hand and a bundle of fire wood in the other.

“Watcher,” he called in a way I'd never heard before. It was urgent. I turned quickly and nodded. “There's a man waiting to help us escape.” He said. I was confused, but Johnny went on. “He says that there is a way out of the castle to the boat if we want to escape. I said that I'd tell you. He's going to wait at the door to the dungeon.”

“A way out?” One of the men questioned excitedly. A murmur rose among the men and they all looked at Johnny.

“What do we do watcher?” Abel asked awkwardly. “Do we trust him?”

“Finnish the traps first,” I said. “We must delay them from following.” I knew that if we just fled the soldiers would quickly follow and possibly overtake us. Then we would still lose. If we held them off a little longer with traps, they wouldn't pursue us so quickly for fear of more snares.

The men cheered at this instruction and worked with a real purpose. I went to the other men with Johnny. Johnny told them the news and I instructed them in building other traps to hold off the soldiers.

When all was done, we gathered together in the passage to the dungeon and met up with the man. He was in fact younger than me. He looked about thirteen to me, but he was older than Johnny so I could see how Johnny saw him as a man. He led us into the dungeons and asked us to cover our eyes with whatever we had. Some of us were reluctant, but we did it.

The boy climbed down a hole and helped the first man down. Then the man helped the next person down. Soon we formed a long line down a narrow low passage. The last man pulled the stone back over and closed us in. Then we followed one another. Each of us had our hands on the person in front's shoulders. Able struggled a lot to get down the passage. He had to go sideward and crouching on the ground. Even so he often wondered if he could get through. He was panting a lot when he reached the stairs.

The boy who led us whispered back to warn us of the stairs as we reached them. He went slowly and we struggled after him. They were steep and narrow. After that I don't know where he led us. I know that the roof was always high enough after that and the walls weren't pressing close on all sides.

The next thing I remember of that odd journey was stopping and hearing the boy whispering with a man I didn't recognise. He certainly wasn't one of us. I wondered if this was the head smuggler who he was speaking to. I never discovered. The next moment he turned us all round and lead us a different way. At last we came out into the open.

“Keep to the left against the rock,” the boy told us and we obeyed. We went down a steep slope at the end of which he helped us down and we assembled on the sand. He said we may take off our blindfolds to board the boat, although we had to put them on for a short time after we'd boarded again. When we took them off, we found ourselves in Archer's Bay with the sea lapping on the shore and a boat lying in the shallows, ready to sail. The boy was already helping people into the boat and so were two other men who I recognised as Joe and Nathan.

Suddenly I saw Paul running across to me. I smiled at him. I was glad that he was there. Nathan offered him a hand but he shook his head and gestured to me. I smiled at him and he beamed back.

“Ladies first,” Paul said and taking my hand, helped me into the boat.

 

19.3

Joe looked back at Simon pulling away in the one man kayak type boat. He moved with a precision that had always stirred up envy in Joe, but now he felt as though he was losing something. He didn't feel confidant on the sea at the best of times, but now Simon was going back to the tunnels, he felt even more insecure. They'd crossed the sea with just two before. He knew how to do it and Nathan was sure he knew the way. The wind had dropped somewhat and was blowing across them. They didn't need to tack or struggle to keep their speed down. The sea was rather choppy, but nothing too bad. Joe didn't know why he felt so lost without Simon. A few hours before he'd hated him, but something had happened on the boat speaking with his father. Nathan was right. Where Simon was in life was a direct consequence of other people's decisions as well as his own. That had made him think. He realised then that the reason he was working on boats at all was a result of his father's marriage. They could easily have been on shore traders, but because his mother was part of the family fight, he and Nathan were now also in it. There was no other reason. Neither he nor Nathan liked fighting on the sea and loosing boats.

He pulled the main sheet up and connected the pulley block to the stern. He coiled the extra length of rope while Nathan set up the jib. Then Nathan returned to the tiller and Joe took hold of the jib rope. The villagers were cheerfully talking. He smiled as he realised how he was influencing their lives. He was glad that it was for good. They would live because of Him, Nathan, Simon and the other smugglers. They had made a difference. They had helped. Joe was glad and smiled.

Nathan looked across the boat at the villagers sitting together and talking happily. A young, pretty girl with a sword at her side was sitting next to an unshaven man with brown eyes and a gentle face. Next to him a fat man sat talking to another man who had a square nose and a large bruise on one cheek. On the other side of the girl sat an exuberant boy of about eleven with a bow in his hands which he kept pretending to shoot although he had no arrows. Behind them knelt the man who they'd seen at the foot of the castle steps the last time they'd come up there. He had a proper spear in his hands now and was watching the girl protectively. Beside him sat several older women talking together and laughing. On the other side of the man with the spear sat some other men with their makeshift weapons. One had a proper sword, long and broad bladed. He also had a shield. Another man had chain mail on and a third had a helmet. It looked as though they'd divided one set of armour among them all.

He smiled and pulled the sail over. Joe quickly pulled the jib to the opposite side and they continued in the wind.

They landed at last on the beach below the hill just as they'd intended. Nathan was delighted and all the villagers were thrilled. They all helped carry the boat up the beach and out of reach of the waves. Then they insisted that Joe and Nathan should stay with them to rest a while before returning. They agreed. They camped beneath the stars with the villagers around them. Joe had never felt quite as happy. He loved the shore. He drifted off to sleep with the sound of distant waterfalls ringing in his ears.

 

19.4

I was called to the fight half an hour before dusk. Crool had sent for me, but when I arrived he was dead, shot in the groin and stabbed in the side between the ribs. I found the field in disarray. Some men wanted to retreat, but I couldn't allow this although I greatly wished to do so.

Myself being the most senior officer on the field, I took command. I told the men to take the castle but to harm no one. It was dusk when this command was given.

Around three quarters of an hour after nightfall the ram succeeded in breaking through the castle door. Many of the men ran straight in with drawn weapons. These were all injured in some way or another. The entrance was laced with snares and traps. One of the most successful of these consisted of a simple trip rope connected to a bundle of fire wood. When the trip rope was pressed or cut the wood would fall on anyone below. The first of these had an enormous quantity of wood bound together in a solid block. This when dislodged fell with calculated precision on the four men who had set it off injuring two seriously.

Once I realised what was happening I instructed that the men proceed with caution and just as well. The castle was simply plagued with traps of all kinds.

We made a thorough search of the castle. Every tower and store cupboard was searched with a comb. These were our findings.

A large quantity of fire wood, mostly used in traps. A small bundle of pine torches in one cupboard. A child's sandals with broken soles. A ripped blanket found in the foremost tower. Three broken home-made clubs and two half-starved sheep.

The sheep were found in a pen of sorts in the central courtyard. There was no food for them and it appeared that they hadn't been fed that day. There was evidence that one sheep had been slaughtered recently, but none of its meat was found.

The astounding thing about the taking of the castle was the lack of defenders. The soldiers estimated that there were about twenty defenders, including women and children. However, when we entered the castle there was no evidence that anyone had been there for some time. The broken weapons were about all they left to show that they had fought. Now they were gone without a trace. We searched until the small hours of the night, but there was no hidden door or escape tunnel. There was simply no way they could have escaped and yet they were gone.

About an hour before dawn I instructed that ten soldiers should remain at the castle as a military presence in case the villagers did return, which was unlikely. I lead the rest of the army back to the fort. Two men decided to bring home the sheep on their shoulders as a joke to show what we'd fought for. It was a poignant idea. Ten soldiers were dead, Crool among them. Many more were injured and it was all for two half-starved sheep.

Once back at the fort I sought out my good friend Corporal Adrian Nite. I expected to find him in the sleeping hall, but he wasn't there. Furthermore I discovered that the man on the wall before Adrian had not seen him and nor had the men on the cliffs, neither before nor afterwards. The man on the wall after Adrian's duty had been late and therefore hadn't expected to see Adrian. I was perturbed at this, but there was nothing I could do about it. I set another guard on patrol at the gate, for it would have been Adrian's duty. Then I sent the men to bed and took a few hours’ sleep myself.

When I woke Adrian was still nowhere to be found. I therefore went to the commander's room, found the log book of events in the fort and wrote this entry.

For reference to my identity, my name is Alexander Clamston. I am a Sergeant, but have written this entry in the lack of a commander.

 

19.5

The first thing Ted noticed was that Nathan and Joe's boat was gone. The kayak was wet, but clean and in its place. However, the other boat was nowhere to be seen.

“He's run away,” Terry said as they put the Dianna down on the platform.

“I don't think so,” Tom murmured. “But what has happened?”

“Simon,” Ted called with an edge of anger in his voice. Whatever had happened, Simon had disobeyed him and that was clear.

Simon was standing just inside the door almost instantly. He had his stick tucked in his belt and stood alert.

The three smugglers went in and Terry shut the door behind them.

“So,” Ted demanded looking threateningly at Simon. “You left this tunnel, didn't you?”

“Yes,” Simon replied.

Ted seized hold of his arm and was about to throw him back against the wall, but Simon kept looking at him and spoke, keeping his voice remarkably steady.

“Please here me out,” he said quietly. “I know I disobeyed you, but please listen to why.”

“Go on,” Ted muttered. Tom could see that Ted was very much trying not to throw Simon to the ground. Ted didn't like being disobeyed and tom knew it.

“I heard someone in the tunnels,” Simon began. “I knew that if I intercepted them I'd go out of the bounds you set, but I thought it was the right thing to do. I took the man down at the junction there.” He pointed awkwardly for Ted was gripping his arm tightly. “I was going to just lock him up until you came back, but then he told me about the villagers. They were trapped in the castle. He said that he knew a way to the castle by which I could rescue them. He was certain that they wouldn't hold out until you came back and I think he was right. I brought Nathan's boat and got Nathan and Joe to take the villagers across the sea and I went with the soldier to the tunnel he told me of. We got the villagers out and I guided the boat past the rocks before returning here. I've locked the soldier up in one of the rooms here so that you can find out from him to see that I'm not lying.” His last words were hurried and a bit frightened. Tom could tell from the look in his eyes that he could only hold his nerve for so long. Ted still frightened him enough to keep control.

“Do you think he's telling the truth?” Terry whispered to Tom.

“It's easy enough to tell that,” Tom replied, also in a whisper.

“A soldier you say,” Ted said thoughtfully looking at Simon.

Simon nodded. “It's the one you questioned on the cliff top,” he identified. 'Adrian.'

Tom looked doubtful. “He's too scared to come here,” he murmured to Ted who shrugged. “Anyway, how would he know the tunnel that leads to the castle? I haven't even been there, or at least not since I was a boy.”

“That's much more the question,” Ted muttered. 'I don't like it.'

“You think it is him then,” Terry checked.

“Who else could it be,” Ted answered but his eyes were still fixed on Simon. “Where is he?” he demanded now talking to Simon.

“Fifth chamber on the left,” Simon stated. “I've chained his hands as well.”

Ted pushed Simon ahead of him and glanced back at his friends. Tom knew the look. It was a “What do I do?” look. Tom understood perfectly. Simon had done the right thing in rescuing the villagers, but if Ted didn't punish him, he'd risk it again. Tom put his hands in his pockets and considered, but only for a moment as his finger touched something and his thoughts instantly changed.

Terry also understood the problem. He didn't know what to do, but he knew that Simon would disobey again if he got away with it this time. He glanced across at Tom and noticed a strange expression on Tom's face. It was a puzzled expression, mingled with doubt. His hands were in his pockets, as they often were when he was thinking. However Terry noticed that Tom was fingering something in his right pocket which was not normal. When Tom was thinking so deeply on one subject, it was nearly impossible to change his line of thought. Even so he nudged tom.

“What do you think?” he whispered as they reached the door and Ted drew back the bolt.

Tom shrugged. He didn't know and he wasn't willing to think much on it at that moment.

Adrian was standing at the far end of the small room. He looked at them when they came in and smiled slightly. It was a mixed smile. He was glad that they had come, for he hated waiting. At the same time he was frightened by their coming. He had disobeyed Ted's first instruction and he knew that Ted wouldn't just let him go. Other thoughts were also on his mind and although fear showed on his face, so did the smile.

Ted looked straight at Adrian and he didn't know if he was pleased or angry with the soldier. Again he'd done the right thing to come, but he'd disobeyed Ted. After a moment Ted made a quick decision. He looked back at his friends who were now standing, one on either side of him. He tapped his belt with one hand and questioned with his face.

Both men nodded.

“Well Adrian,” Ted said turning back to look at the soldier. “You've disobeyed me again and come down here.”

Adrian dropped his head. It was obvious that Ted wasn't even going to question him. And why should he? He was there to prove his guilt.

Ted let go of Simon's arm and stepped forward. With a quick movement he unbuckled Adrian's belt and turned him to face the wall. He gestured to Simon to hand him the key to the lock. Simon instantly did so. As soon as Adrian's wrists were loos, Ted roughly pulled off Adrian's chain mail, brought his hands in front of the soldier and chained them again. Then he flicked the chain over a small, rather inconspicuous hook and pulled the soldier's arms above his head. Adrian knew what was coming. He braced himself and gritted his teeth. Ted could be ruthless.

The tough leather belt came down on Adrian's back with a thwack. The mettle tipped tongue came over Adrian's shoulder and clipped the wall. Adrian closed his eyes. He'd forgotten about that. Ted wouldn't fail to hit him with the end again. Adrian was right about that. The second stroke descended and the pointed mettle tip on the tongue of the belt slashed across Adrian's back. His tunic ripped instantly and a thin line of blood ran where the belt had initially struck. The third blow hurt him much more severely, cutting the full length of the stroke. Adrian still kept silent. At the fifth stroke he gasped, but even at the tenth he would not let himself cry out.

Ted dropped the belt and turned Adrian to face him.

“I've been gentle with you because you did it to help others,” Ted explained quietly. “But understand that I won't allow you to just disobey me,”

“I understand,” Adrian replied. He could hardly believe it. Ted wasn't going to kill him after all.

“I've got a few questions though,” Ted said stepping back to join his friends. “For one, how do you know the tunnel to the castle?”

“The same way I know anything about the tunnels,” Adrian replied.

Ted thought for a moment then came to a question he realised that he'd never asked and should have. “How did you find the Tower entrance?”

Adrian sighed. “I was given a map,” he stated. “I only had it for three days and I memorised it.”

“A map of the tunnels,” Ted asked glancing at his friends.

“Yes,” Adrian replied in an almost clipped voice.

“Who gave it to you?” Ted asked with surprising calmness. Simon looked at him and knew that this calm was simply holding back.

“My sister-in-law gave it to me, but she got it from her brother who got it from someone else. I only discovered that afterwards.”

“Where are your sister-in-law and her brother now?” Ted pressed.

“Her brother died in a sea fight along with all his crew about a year after I saw the map. As for my sister-in-law,” Adrian hesitated. “She died at the hands of my commander a few weeks before he came to the fort. Her and my nephew who I've never seen.”

“You say her brother died in a sea fight?” Ted double checked. “Was this about the time of the treachery?”

“Yes,” Adrian answered. He didn't like the mention of the treachery, but perhaps it was a good thing that Ted was talking about it.

The three smugglers glanced at one another and Ted smiled. Simon remembered Ted telling him how they'd killed everyone on board the traitor's ship.

“So you were linked to the treachery unknowingly,” Ted stated.

Adrian looked a bit surprised although not as much as Ted had expected. Perhaps he had wondered about it recently.

“Your sister-in-law's brother was obviously a decoy so that the traitor could slip the net.” Ted explained. “He was obviously given a map by the traitor and gave it to you to memorise. That would also explain how he managed to escape. If he had a map, he could easily just take another exit and run by land. I never even considered a map being involved, but it fits.”

Tom nodded. It fitted very well. Even Terry nodded and he usually didn't quite agree with views on the treachery.

“That would also explain why my brother and his wife left the fort two days before it all came to a head,” Adrian reluctantly admitted. He didn't like putting his brother in it, but he knew that Ted would draw the link.

“Yes,” Ted agreed. “That would also explain why you're brother has returned now that your sister-in-law is dead. He left to protect her. I'm assuming that the red haired guy with green eyes who's been hanging round the area is your brother. He looks like you with different hair.”

“Yes,” Adrian confirmed and felt glad. Ted didn't see him or his brother as being involved.

After a pause Ted changed the subject. “I'm glad that you came to find Simon and helped the villagers.” He said.

Adrian suddenly noticed Simon standing to Terry's left. All this time he'd stood still and listened and his expression hadn't changed once. It was as though he was taking in all the information and storing it away without knowing why. What did it matter to him? Adrian and his family, the treachery and massacre on the ship. What did any of it matter to him? He was just a new player in the game. Adrian looked at him and suddenly wondered. Was he a new player or was he simply playing a new part?

 


Submitted: July 17, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Cwester. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Julie March

You know, I thought Paul seemed awfully friendly. Of course, I should've seen this! I can be so stupid sometimes. Way to throw me a curveball, plot-wise.

Thu, July 26th, 2012 8:02pm

Author
Reply

I loved writing that twist! I hoped that it would come as a surprise to anyone reading this, so I'm glad it did for you.

Fri, July 27th, 2012 9:01am

andreamay

Well, now, it hasn't been a surprise, but a good blow to my stomach. But it isn't that much because of me being stupid, but mostly because of you being too clever. But I'm still waiting to find out why the watcher is a girl.

Corrections. 19.2 The beginning. Quote: I was overseeing the setting up... Johnny ran in. he had his bow... ("He" capital letter)
The same sentence. Quote: ...a bundle of fire wood... ("firewood"). 19.4 The third paragraph. Quote: One of the most successful of these consisted of.... a bundle of fire wood. ("firewood") Quote: A large quantity of fire wood,... ("firewood"). 19.5 Simon nodded. "It's the one you questioned on the cliff top," he identified. 'Adrian.' (just quotation marks "Adrian.") Quote: "That's much more the question," Ted muttered. 'I don't like it.' (quotation marks again "I don't like it.") Quote: Even so he nudged tom. ("Tom" - capital letter)
Quote: The mettle tipped belt came over Adrian's shoulder and... ("mettle" - should be "metal")

Tue, May 27th, 2014 12:01pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for reading and commenting. I've made the corrections on my computer. I'm very glad to say that thanks to you, it looks like I may have an error free version at last.

It was remarkably difficult to write it so that the reader didn't guess that the Watcher was a girl. That was my main reason for writing her story in the first person. It lets the reader imagine her, but she tells them what she thinks, sees and hears, so what is obvious to her, is a surprise to the reader, although all the hints are there if you look for them.

Tue, May 27th, 2014 3:07pm

andreamay

Sorry, I just missed to paste the last correction:
Quote: The second stroke descended and the pointed mettle tip... ("mettle" - "metal")

Tue, May 27th, 2014 12:14pm

Author
Reply

Thank you. I've now made that one too.

Tue, May 27th, 2014 3:10pm

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