A small town is transported to an alien world
Having picked up the trail where it left off by the small stream, they had been following it all night long. A few hours before daybreak, they suddenly lost all sign of the clumsy party they'd been following. They started backtracking and just as dawn broke over the top of the small mountain they found the remnants of a large smoldering fire.
"Looks like this is as far as they got," General Zanik stated, feeling the warm ashes of the fire. There were still hot coals deep in the bed. "Couldn't have been more than a couple hours ahead of us though."
Dhar pointed to the bank of the river where a large wedge shaped depression was dug into the mud.
"They boarded a large boat here," Monday stated, examining the indentation. He looked out across the river which had widened to at least a hundred meters across. "The river's wide and deep enough to support a craft of pretty good size. Chances are, they went on down river to wherever these kidnappers come from."
"Where do we go from here?" Doctor Prestano asked, gazing out across the choppy waters.
"It'd be faster if we had a boat," replied Chief Kendricks, "but it'd take a lot of time to build one."
"Not necessarily," Monday stated. "See that large tree over there," he said, pointing to a tree about two feet in diameter, "it's soft wood and will make a quick dugout. Someone start a big fire while we chop this sucker down."
It took no more than an hour to chop the large tree down as they took turns in relays to add speed to the endeavor. After the tree had been felled, Monday and the Tyberian Appius begin to flatten one side about a third of the way through the trunk and about fifteen feet long while another crew begin to chop and round off the other end. As soon as this had been done they poured hot burning coals on the flat side and helped them to burn by constantly chopping the wood into tiny bite size pieces for the hungry coals which were replaced every half hour or so. Although the wood was green it was soft and burned rapidly. Within two hours they had a blackened but serviceable dugout which would easily hold the entire party. Rough paddles had been carved as the boat took shape.
The party quickly loaded what little gear they had brought and shoved off into the choppy waters, securing the gear and weapons against the odd chance of the boat turning over. The Ionar were at first leery of the little boat which could turn over almost without help, but showed no signs of fear to their great friend Mon-Da. It took no more than half of them to control the small dugout and to maintain a steady fast pace down the river. Monday ordered half of the party to take the opportunity to sleep while the other half paddled.
After six hours of steady travel they came to a split in the river. Both branches looked of equal size and either could have been the route taken by the men they were pursuing. Monday knew to take the wrong branch would cost them a lot of time, however, what choice did they have other than a fifty-fifty chance. He let Chief Kendricks select the one to take and they headed down the right branch of the river.
After about four hours they begin to hit signs of rapids. The river had started to narrow and high cliffs were beginning to appear along both sides. The current was also becoming much swifter. He pointed towards the bank and ordered the paddlers to head for shore.
"Wrong choice," he told the party as they pulled the dugout onto the bank. "There are rapids ahead and no way in hell a ship of any size could get through them. Reckon we better head back."
Fighting against the current, it took them a full exhausting six hours to again reach the branch in the river. It would not have been faster on land due to the weight of the dugout and the equipment they had to carry. Despite their speed, they had lost a good ten hours of valuable time against the kidnappers.
They traveled the remainder of that day and all through the night without any sign of their quarry. They had been eating their meals which consisted of pemmican like cakes during their infrequent breaks from the paddle and taking turns sleeping. This planet, unlike Earth, had a rotation period of 34 hours, around twenty hours of daylight and fourteen of darkness, thus they had been following the kidnappers for almost forty hours.
Dawn broke on the second day with a heavy fog hovering over the river which slowly begin to dissipate as the sun started to climb. Each of the party could feel the stiffness in their muscles and the new blisters on their hands from the incessant rowing. Suddenly, something big and moving struck the side of the dugout almost capsizing it. They watched in fascination as a large fish, fully twenty feet long and three feet across the back, swam lazily away from them.
"Talk about Moby Dick," remarked Dom, "that sucker could probably swallow a man whole. I didn't know fresh water fish that size existed."
"Probably one of the giant sturgeons," replied Monday, "I've heard stories from fishermen along some of the larger European rivers say they often caught sturgeon ten to twelve feet long. Course, I figured they were just telling one of the, "one who got away," fish stories until now." He watched as the giant fish slowly made its way down the river paralleling their small dugout in search of its breakfast. It disappeared after a few minutes into the unknown depths of the river.
"Remind me not to swim too far out in this river," General Zanik stated, "wouldn't want to meet up with one of those babies doing the breaststroke."
"Me neither," replied chief Kendricks, eyeing the fish as it sounded and disappeared.
The day became clear and beautiful with puffy white clouds scattered across the bright blue sky. Occasional wisps of fog could be seen hugging the river which was approximately a half mile wide, but it completely disappeared as the sun continued to climb. An hour after daybreak they spotted signs of habitation along the left bank of the river. Small log like structures could be seen setting back from the bank and smoke from small cooking fires slowly made its way into the still morning air. They halted their rowing at a signal from Monday and let the current carry them slowly down the widening river. They could see the concentration on Monday's face as he decided their best course of action.
"They know we're coming," he stated, "and they know we're probably a small party. They obviously feel safe since they have likely reached their settlement and are back among their own people. The best thing we can do is to head right for their main settlement and confront their leaders. Most primitive peoples respected courage and daring, hopefully they'll be no exception. Plus, we have our modern weapons to surprise them with and perhaps scare them into releasing the kids. Before we go any further though, I think we should drop off two of the Ionar scouts to trail our progress along the river. In the event we meet something we can't handle they will be our ace in the hole. Any questions or recommendations?"
He had given his instructions both verbally and using the Ionar sign language so that Dhar and the other two Ionar, Hel-Gor and Bak, knew of his plans. They all nodded their heads in agreement with the hasty plan and turned the dugout towards the left bank of the river to drop the two Ionar off.
Half an hour later, as they rounded a sharp bend in the river, the unknown settlement came into full view. It was a rather large settlement consisting of several hundred log like buildings, a few of which were enormous and could have held a couple hundred people. Sturdy log docks had been built along the river and they gaped in wide mouth surprise at what they saw as their dugout slowly drifted with the current.
Tied securely to the docks were four huge Viking long ships, their dragon prows staring out angrily over the calm waters. There was also a score of smaller fishing boats tied along the hundred yards of docks.
"Well I'll be damned," Dom remarked, "looking at the long ships in awe, "friggin Vikings of all things."
"Yeah," Monday replied, glancing at the shoreline as hundreds of people, men, women and children, threw their hands up pointing at the dugout making its way toward the dock. "Just what we need, some of the fiercest warrior people to ever inhabit the world."
As they neared the dock they were met by half a hundred huge men clad in sheepskin jerseys, leather pants, and wearing conical helmets. Few of the helmets had horns as he'd often pictured the real Vikings would look like and every man carried either a long sword or battle axe. He halted the dugout about ten feet from the docks and signaled to the men standing there quietly and stoically that he came in peace. At least he hoped his hands held up empty with palms facing out would signify peace to these rugged looking men.
The men glared at him for a full ten minutes before a giant among them signaled for them to come ashore.
"Here goes nothing," Monday whispered, "bring us to the dock and no fighting," he ended, aware that they'd be quickly overwhelmed if they started anything, sort of like ten men attacking ten thousand and saying, "take no prisoners," the silly comparison was not humorous at all.
As they were helped on to the docks the Viking leader signaled for them to follow him towards the village. They were half pushed and half shoved by the throng of men towards a clearing in front of one of the huge long houses where women and slaves were preparing what appeared to be a hearty breakfast over the open fires.
The leader halted them in front of the building and turned and said something in a harsh Nordic language which sounded vaguely familiar to Monday but far from understandable.
"Well," he looked at his companions, "any of you speak Old Norse or anything similar?" He was met by a wall of blank but defiant faces. "Reckon we better try sign language then."
The mob was looking at him and his companions with curiosity, several with unconcealed hatred. A tall blond headed man stepped up suddenly and struck Monday across the face, laughing as he did so and shouting some incomprehensible words.
Despite his self-control, Monday could not stop his instinctive combat trained reaction. He hit the man in the solar plexus with a heavy upper cut then grabbed the man in a judo hold and threw him at least ten feet to the hard ground where he landed with a bone shattering thump. Before the man could recover his senses he straddled him and placed a knee against his Adams apple prepared to give him a karate chop if he so much as moved an inch.
The surprised warriors immediately brought their weapons to a position to attack the small party, but before they could complete their fierce attack a loud pistol shot rang out in the early morning stillness.
Monday watched in complete surprise as several hundred men armed with modern weapons surrounded the mob pointing their weapons at both them and the unruly Vikings.
Their weapons didn't shock him as much as their uniforms did. To his amazement each of the obviously well-disciplined soldiers wore the black uniform of the Nazi Third Reich SS Storm Troops, and each had red, white, and black swastika arm bands on their left arms.