Chapter 4:

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

Reads: 222
Comments: 2

4.1

They went quickly but carefully down the path to the beach. When they reached it the tide was still too high for them to get to the cave, but they knew that it wouldn't be long. The tide seemed to come in and go out very rapidly here. They sat down on the beach and waited.

'I hope we haven't caused too much of a `disturbance,' Joe said after a while. 'I mean with the fight. I hope we haven't caused trouble for the village.'

'I don't think there'll be trouble,' Nathan replied hopefully. He also was worried that they'd attracted too much attention, but it was the sailors who'd started it. They just defended themselves. They had in a way broken it up by running. They could have won but they'd both felt that it wouldn't be safe for them or the village. 'The village boys were brilliant at pretending that they didn't want us there.'

'There were girls as well,' Joe put in with a smile. 'In fact it was the girls who started it.'

Nathan laughed and leaned back on the sand. He looked up at the clear sky and stretched out in the sun. A few minutes passed in companionable silence before Nathan spoke. 'It's funny how girls so often start things and make them work.'

'What do you mean?' Joe looked at his father baffled.

'Well when your mother was born,' Nathan began. 'When your uncle was twelve, their mother started a protest against the fighting. So did one of their women. A peace settlement was sorted and there was peace for nine years, until your grandmother died. The other woman had died three years before, but your grandmother kept the peace until she died. That's what I mean. It often takes a woman to start something that will work, like a peace treaty.'

Joe thought about it for a long time before slowly nodding. 'I guess so,' he smiled. 'Let's hope that the girl's deception in the village works as well.'

Joe also then lay down on the sand and closed his eyes against the brilliant sun light. A short while passed again in silence before Nathan broke it with a satisfied sigh that ended almost worried. Joe knew what he was thinking. It was a lovely day, but where was Simon.

Joe rolled over and sat up. The sea was inching its way away from the cliffs and there was now a narrow strip of land by which they could get to the cave. He got up and walked down towards it. Nathan jumped up and followed him.

Once in the cave they felt much more anxious for Simon. They agreed to look for him again and taking the ropes they set off down the middle two tunnels, calling and searching. They didn't spend very long. They only kept to the main tunnel until they reached the end of their rope. Then they returned to the cave, leaving the ropes stretched out into the tunnels in case Simon should wonder across one and could follow it back. Then they took two more ropes and laid them out in the side tunnels calling as they went. Their calls were futile but they hoped he'd find the ropes. They had no other hope for him. He was lost and they couldn't find him.

At last they sat down miserably in the cave with their pile of fire wood stacked up in one alcove.

'So what are we going to do now?' Joe asked wretchedly.

'I don't know,' Nathan sighed heavily. It was odd how quickly moods could change. Theirs had changed with coming into the cave.

Another long silence fell between them, this time like a dividing curtain and not companionable in the least.

'I say we make a small fire on the beach and have a hot meal,' Joe said at last. 'We haven't had a hot meal since before we fought Narvis and his crew.'

'Don't remind me,' Nathan muttered. He hated losing and that was what had happened.

After another long cold silence Nathan nodded and got up. 'Yes,' he agreed as though continuing the conversation. 'Let's do it.'

They took a little wood and the lantern to light it with, then descended to the sand and made their way to the bay by the path. With some difficulty they lit the fire and built it up. Then Nathan returned to the cave and brought some oats and water. They filled an earthenware pot with water and added the oats to make porridge. A pinch of salt was also added and it was placed on the fire to cook.

As they worked their mood lifted and they spoke merrily, enjoying the day and the food.

 

4.2

Adrian pushed away his bow land leaned back in his chair. Alexander had moved him to a quiet chamber in the main building where he'd set up a bed and brought in a chair and table. He'd seen to it that only he and the three men he trusted were in the area, setting one on guard at the door to look after him at all times. He'd brought Adrian's food in to him and had eaten with him. Now they had just finished their lunch of overcooked mutton and undercooked cabbage and cauliflower.

'So what were you doing in the courtyard?' Alexander asked, attempting to piece together what happened.

'I was trying to stop the soldiers from leaving the base,' Adrian explained. 'That's why they attacked me.'

'Yes,' Alexander nodded vigorously. He'd already gathered that much. 'But why were you there at all? You usually go to bed early and avoid the soldiers on these nights.'

'I,' Adrian started and trailed off. 'It's an odd story.' He said at last. 'Please don't ridicule me for it. I know it sounds crazy but…' he trailed off.

'I won't laugh,' Alexander assured. 'I believe many unbelievable stories. I've seen some odd things for myself. Tell me.'

Adrian watched him for a moment and then began his unusual tale.

'I was going to bed. It was just as the sun went down. I came to my hall and there I saw a man. He was standing on the roof. He had a black cloak on that billowed from his shoulders. He told me to be a watchman, on the walls. Then he went away, out of sight over the other side of the roof. I was meant to be on duty, guarding the gate from above. I realised that I had to do my duty so I did. And I don't know why, but I felt glad when I did.'

Alexander watched him for a moment in silence. Then he nodded. 'That is an odd story, but it fits. It fits.'

'What do you mean?' Adrian asked bewildered.

'Well,' Alexander paused. 'Listen. I'll tell you what I saw and then you'll see what I mean. It fits. You'll see it.'

He sat down on a stool and taking a deep breath began.

He'd also slipped out of the hall early. He'd gone out across the cliffs towards the harbour. He often did. It had been a beautiful night, the sky was clear and the sound of the sea on the rocks lulled him into a dreamy state. He liked walking along the cliff edge rather than the road for this precise reason.

That night he'd been walking along the cliffs and he'd stopped and looked out at the sea. The sun had set and in the darkening sky the stars glittered faintly. The moon had not yet risen but there was enough light to see, although not far. As he'd watched the sea he'd seen a shape rising and falling beyond the lighthouse. It was a small ship, edging round towards the rocks, its sails raised, but no flag or banner. He watched it for some time before it disappeared behind the lighthouse. Then he'd turned to go to the other side of the fort and see if he could see it still.

He'd taken no more than a score of paces when a figure rose up on his right and the steady rhythmic pounding of hoofs caused the ground to tremble. The horseman had ridden straight past him, his cloak flowing out behind him in the wind caused by the speed at which he was riding. As he passed he'd thrown a short cylindrical package on to the ground at Alexander's feet and disappeared into the night, turning inland and away beyond the hill.

Uncertainly Alexander had picked up the package and found it to be a single sheet of parchment rolled up and bound around with a long strip of black woollen cloth. He unwound the cloth and opened the sealed paper. There was no design on the seal and no signature at the end of the script. It read:

'Alexander. They have come. The war is here and you are one of few who can make a difference. It is your duty and responsibility to act. Be alert. You are a man and a soldier. Behave like one. Do not hide from your duty.'

After reading this all thoughts of the small boat vanished and a little shaken he'd returned to the fort by the lighthouse gate which he'd left open. He'd gone to bed for a few hours but rose when the first of the men came in. he'd gone down to the main hall to help escort to bed, those soldiers who could barely stand. He'd been coming back out of the hall with one such man when he'd seen the fight and had rescued Adrian.

'So you see,' he said at the end. 'The man you saw also came to me and told me although not in the same way.'

Adrian nodded. 'It seems that he knows somehow that we don't act the same as the others,' he murmured, almost to himself.

'I think it's more important to note that he knows us by name,' Alexander pointed out.

'Yes,' Adrian agreed. 'I think that's what startled me most, along with the thought that I knew him from somewhere but I didn't know where.'

'I felt the same,' Alexander smiled. 'But I don't know why. But anyway. We can think on this more another time. Now I think you should get some rest.'

He helped Adrian across to the bed and dimmed the lamp before taking the dishes and quietly leaving the room.

 

4.3

The ship rocked with the waves and juddered as it came into contact with the other ship. The ropes were tight and so were their muscles. Their swords and knives glittered in the bright sun that beat down on the two large vessels. The shouting rose around him and he was running forward, into the fray. His long knife was at his side and his short sword in his hand. A huge man with hairy arms and a scar on his cheek was against him. The man's enormous two handed axe swung over towards his small shoulders. He ducked back and tripped on a… he didn't know what and couldn't see. There was a thick sweet, sickly smell of blood in the air. Then he was on his feet again and running. One man grabbed at his arm. He hit him with his sword and twisted franticly aside. A gigantic dog rose up on one side of him and leaped for his throat. He fell and cried out. Another man pulled him up and swung a long sword towards his neck. He ducked back and jumped over the rail. He tried to get onto the other boat. He slipped on the rail. He fell, tumbling and tumbling. As he fell he saw the two boats move closer and closer together. He wasn't falling fast enough. He was going to get crushed…

Simon woke with a start. The crash of the collision resounded in his head. The bang, mingled with the swish of water as he dove. He had escaped. He'd got on to the ships boat. Only he Nathan and Joe had escaped though.

He pushed the memory from his immediate thoughts and sat up. What had woken him? He thought back trying to distinguish reality from dream. Had he heard a noise? A crash? A door? Yes a door.

'Hello,' he called hopefully. 'Is anyone there?' he listened, but there was no sound. 'Hello. Nathan? Joe? Is that you?' there was no reply. 'Is any one there?' he called one last time. Nothing.

Maybe he had dreamed it. Maybe there was no noise. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. Not for the first time he wished he'd been sensible, more like Joe, or Nathan. They wouldn't go far into the tunnels and they would make sure they knew their way back. The thing was, he had known his way back, or so he'd thought. He had tried to get back, but the door he was sure he had come through was locked and there was no way of unlocking it. It was locked with a key and Simon didn't have his picks. Anyway, if it was locked it couldn't be the door he'd come through. He'd tried others but felt as though he was going in circles. Most of the doors led into chambers and those that weren't locked, led into more and more tunnels. There seemed to be no way out.

He sighed and wished he had chalk. If he had chalk he could mark the route he took from the hall and see if he could get out. If he met with a chalked route again then he would know he'd been there before and was going in a circle. Thus he could eliminate some routes. There was of course a problem. He didn't have chalk so there was no point wishing he did or working out what he could do if he had it.

He fingered his sword hilt. He'd managed to sheath it when he fell in to the water and unlike his uncle and cousin, he still had it. Right then however he would willingly have traded it for a drink of water. His throat was parched and his mouth was dry. His body cried out for the clear liquid of life, but he had none and didn't see any way of getting it. What would happen to him? What would become of him? He was beginning to wonder if he was going to die. He didn't like the idea, but it kept pressing forward in his thoughts. He shut his eyes tight and tried to think of something else. The only thing that came to mind was a jug of water and a table laden with food. He sighed miserably then started. Surely that wasn't a dream. Could it be? Could it be-footsteps?

 

4.4

Ted slipped out of bed and crept down to the boats. He carefully lowered a six man lifeboat with its anchor, ores and securing ropes. Once it was safely in the water, only held to its mother ship by a single line, he tossed in some other useful items. A long pole with a hook at the end, a coil of extra rope, a large lantern and plenty of oil and lastly a cloth bag that clinked as it fell into the stern of the boat.

Ted looked around for his friends. They were coming stealthily from the building with their things all ready to set off. Lightly they crossed the deck of the mother ship and dropped into the small boat.

'Have we got everything?' Ted whispered. 'You've got the small lanterns and the keys?'

'Yes,' Tom confirmed in a whisper. 'Terry's got the boathooks and food.'

'What about water?' Ted asked as he loosed the tethering line.

'I've got that,' Tom assured and picked up one of the ores. Terry laid hold of another oar and they pulled steadily while Ted took the rudder pole.

Once out of the harbour they spoke more freely.

'Are you sure we locked all the ways out of that complex?' Ted asked. 'I mean, could he escape any other way?'

'No one knows the tunnels like we do Ted,' Tom smiled. 'We've locked all the doors, but even if we hadn't, he wouldn't be able to escape. We'd find him.'

'True enough,' Ted smiled.

'I'd like to know who he is,' Terry said cautiously.

'Don't we all,' Tom laughed.

'Yes,' Ted agreed. And another question is how he found the tunnels at all.'

'Quite,' Tom nodded vehemently. 'I thought that they were secret. They weren't meant to be found.'

There were nods all round. They all had their suspicions but none of them voiced them. Ted turned the boat round to port and conscientiously steered it round the lighthouse projection and then out to sea again to avoid the rocks.

Supporting the rudder with his knee, he lit the lantern but kept the flame low. Then he handed it to Tom who stopped rowing and hung the lantern at the bows. The light played on the water, causing shadows to flitter and reflections to glow as though in their own light. Confidently Ted brought the boat through the narrow gully between the rocks, the same as that which Nathan had accidentally found when they first came. All three of these men knew the rocks better than they knew the harbour where they spent long boring days. Here they knew the rocks because it was absolutely necessary for them to know them. Once through the clear channel they turned port again and rowed carefully between the rocks and the cliffs, towards the lighthouse. Then they watched out for their landmark, an inaccessible ledge of rock, overhung by another. They brought their boat up to the cliff and using the long pole with its hook, caught hold of the edge of the ledge. Ted swung up, using the pole. Then he took the pole and lowered it with the hook down. The other two slipped a loop of rope over the hook and Ted pulled it tight. Then he lowered a ladder with wooden rungs and chains between. They climbed quickly up and then drew back the ladder.

'Give me a boat hook,' Ted almost whispered. 'You take the stern, I'll take the bows.

Terry took hold of the long pole that was tied to the far side of the stern. Tom hooked the near side with the boat hook and Ted hooked the metal loop at the bows.

'Ready?' Ted checked with the others.  'One.'

'Two. Three.' The other's joined in and on three lifted the boat out of the water and onto the ledge. They secured the boat with ropes, put their poles and hooks back into the boat and took out a few other items. Then they turned to the door in the cliff and entered, Terry quietly closing it behind them. 

They first went to a side chamber where they changed from their naval uniforms into other clothes. They also put on chain mail and buckled their sword at their belts. Then they went further into the tunnels, never hesitating or pausing to take their Bearings. At last they came to a locked door. Tom took out his keys and carefully unlocked it. They slipped through and Terry pushed the door shut behind. It swung more easily than they expected and banged closed. Terry glanced apologetically at his leader who was frowning at him. Tom locked the door again and they turned to go on. They heard him call then.

'Joe? Nathan? Is that you?'

Ted dropped a cloth over the lantern, shutting its light away. They all stood still and listened. He didn't call for long.

'So he's not alone here,' Ted mouthed to the others. None of them saw what he mouthed but they were all thinking the same thing. If there were more than just him, they had to find out how many and whether they also knew about the tunnels.

Ted lifted one corner of the cloth and allowed a thin beam of light to dance on the walls. Quietly they advanced.

 

4.5

I saw the fires like stars from my attic window. They glittered on the grassland, far away in the night. There were about a dozen of them in a ring. Individual families from a village. I knew who they were. They were people displaced by the war. They had fled their village to avoid the fighting.

I stood still and looked out of the small window in the end of the roof. The hill dropped away before me and at its feet our sheep clustered together in a fold made of thorn bushes woven together. Beyond that the grass land spread out into the distance where a line of hills rose up and ended with the sky. It was too dark to see the hills clearly that night but I saw the fires, almost halfway between us and the hills. They were probably from the village in the valley on the other side of the hills. If so, the fighting was close.

As I watched the merry twinkling fires dancing on the edge of sight I felt pity for the men, women and children who gathered round each of them. They would only have taken what they could carry with them and that wasn't much. The little food they might have, possibly water, a few items of clothing, a single blanket each if they had enough. They wouldn't have much else. I felt sad for them, but I also felt anxiety for my village. We didn't want to leave. Not then. We were still ready to fight. My rapier was at my bedside when I slept and I always carried it with me. Jude always had his axe with him and Johnny wouldn't be parted from his bow and arrows. Other people in the village also had their weapons. My brothers all had clubs, hatchets or spears. Other boys had other home-made weapons. We were all ready to fight.

I turned from the window and closed the shutters. There was nothing we could do for the village on the grassland. We had enough mouths to feed. They were fleeing, but we would fight. I put down my rapier by my bed and slowly undressed. I would have to point out the fires in the morning. Jude would know what to do. I couldn't do anything. No one bothered to listen to what I had to say-when I said anything.


Submitted: April 10, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Cwester. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Julie March

I love how you always end a chapter from the Watcher's point of view. Instead of it being a restful end to a chapter, though, this time it felt suspenseful and drew me farther in. I can't wait to see where you take this. I also tip my hat to you for being able to keep all of your sub-plots straight. It's more than I would be able to do were I in your shoes.

Thu, July 5th, 2012 12:59am

Author
Reply

Thank you. Near the end of the book the Watcher doesn't end every chapter, but I'll leave that to you to find out more about. I'm glad I've got a bit of suspense. I struggle to do that. The story line took a lot of planning and checking to keep it all strait. Thanks again for reading and commenting. It's much appreciated.

Wed, July 4th, 2012 9:00pm

andreamay

You did such a good job in keeping all the story lines straight and in the same pace. I enjoy so much reading it. It all looks and feels so real. No errors this time. Going to the next chapter right away.

Thu, May 22nd, 2014 12:40pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I'm glad you are still joying it and wanting to read on.

Sat, May 24th, 2014 4:46am

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