The pirates raid The Flashes.
Dunstan closed and secured the gate and the women climbed up onto a hidden ledge and went through a tight tunnel ten feet long leading to a small cavern. Elfwine gathered up weapons and tools in a bag and threw it up to Osbert. Osbert tied the bag to his foot and set off down the tunnel. Elfwine and Dunstan filled three more bags with goods and clothes.
Dunstan was the next up and Elfwine passed the bags to Dunstan who tied his bag and joined the others.
“Let’s go,” Elfwine said.
Baldwin was still at the gate looking out at the pirates. “Why are we hiding?“ Baldwin said. “With your archery skills you could take half of them out, and that would only leave about eight. Not impossible for the four of us.”
“Not that simple, Baldwin. They are not fools and if I didn’t get to them before they landed they would run at us, but not in a straight line. I might get them as they got close, but probably only about four of them before we were in range of their pistols.”
“Then we could weave about as well.”
“Then I would hit even less. They would be on us. A warrior, an archer, an old man, and a young boy.”
“We would have a chance,” Baldwin said. “We might beat them.”
“And if we don’t, and if the women can’t get the boulder in place, and if they find the tunnel.”
“If, if, if!”
“Just get up on the ledge and go down the tunnel. There is more at stake here than your pride and ego.”
“I’m new here and I’ll do as you bid," Baldwin said. "But I’m not happy."
Elfwine followed Baldwin up to the ledge and through the tunnel, pulling their bags behind them. Matilda had taken a lamp and it lit up the sphere-shaped cavern. The wine pouches and all the spare tools utensils and other items were stored in there. When they were all in the cavern they pushed a large boulder in place blocking the tunnel entrance.
It was not long before they heard loud voices and the smashing of the gate. Shouting and laughing, the pirates took anything of use to them and smashed things for the fun of it. They were there a while searching for valuables but everything of value had been taken into the cavern. They stole vegetables from the plot and any chickens they could catch. Then it went quiet.
“I think they have gone,” Dunstan said.
They rolled the boulder back, but Dunstan stood over the entrance ready with his sword in case anyone tried to get in.
“I’ll take a look,” Elfwine said.
“I’ll come with you,” Baldwin said. “There are enough hands here to move the boulder back."
Elfwine gave a nod and they set off through the tunnel. They lay on the ledge at the top for a while, looking and listening, but all was quiet.
Baldwin looked at the devastation in the cave. Clothes and other items strewn about the floor, the table broken, and smashed pottery lying amongst some spoiled leftover food. “What a mess,” he said.
Elfwine climbed down, drew his sword and Baldwin followed. They moved slowly towards the cave entrance and looked out. One boat was a good way out and the other was just leaving the beach.
“If they decide to come back from that boat we can possibly take the eight of them,” Baldwin said.
Elfwine laughed. “They won’t come back. They have what they want.”
“And what is that?" Baldwin asked.”
“Fresh food, Baldwin. But I think now they know they can get supplies here, they might come back another time.”
"They wouldn't be able to come back if we'd have killed them all," Baldwin said.
"So now it's your turn to use that if word," Elfwine said. "He saw the second boat heading for the ship. “I’ll go and get the others.” He looked at the mess around the cave. “We have a lot of work to do.”
* * * * *
Time passed. The women were tending to the crops, chickens and geese. The birds had started to recover their numbers after the pirates found the way through the cave and took some of them. This small bay was inaccessible from the sea due to the treacherous rocks. The sheer cliff face also made it inaccessible from the land. The only way in was through the cave from the large bay and even that was cut off when the tide was in.
However, on this day the tide was out and Baldwin, Dunstan, Elfwine, and Osbert were collecting winkles, cockles and mussels on the shore of the larger bay. When they had filled the small baskets they gathered edible seaweed in the bigger basket. They occasionally checked out to sea in case the pirates were returning and landward in case some of the Mossley townsfolk were coming to take their seafood. They would only allow them to take small amounts for their own use. They were not happy about it but at least the smaller bay was exclusively theirs. They also had to look out in case of a raid by the raiders known as The Vialians. Even though the raiders never needed to venture past the town.
When the baskets were full the men returned to the cave and sat by the fire with the rest of the group enjoying some re-heated broth. "Your broth is excellent, Matilda, even on the second day," Baldwin said.
"No one can argue with that," Dunstan said. "I think it is even better the second day. But the tide is coming in fast and you better get going before you get cut off."
Baldwin and Elfwine took up the produce baskets and set off for the five-mile trek to the town. When they left the cave the waves were lapping their ankles as they crossed to higher ground. Elfwine, an expert archer, also took his bow and arrows, and Baldwin took his sword. Then they each had a dagger which they kept with them at all times.
Dunstan, the elder of the group, stood watch at the cave entrance for a while before closing up the pole gate. Osbert went through to the small bay to help his sister, Erica and the other womenfolk, but their tasks were done and the eggs collected. Osbert sat on a rock with his sister as the other two women returned to their home in the cave.
“What do you think Baldwin and Elfwine will get from the market?” Erica asked. “We could do with a goat, I keep telling Baldwin, but he won’t listen.”
“It would take a lot more produce to get a goat."
"They could take some extra coins from the chest in the bolt hole," Erica said.
"Anyway if we had a goat and the pirates return they would be sure to slaughter and steal it.”
“Not if we took it with us into the bolt hole.”
“Don’t be silly,” Osbert said. “It is a struggle enough for us all to crawl through the tight tunnel. You’d never get a goat through. Anyway, one goat is not enough. We would need at least two to breed.”
“Osbert, do you think those pirates will return?”
“There is nothing here for them except food. If they need food as they are passing then they will return.”
Erica thought of the bolt hole tunnel leading off the cave to the small cavern. “I was so frightened listening to those pirates yelling and laughing as they smashed and looted our home. What if they found the tunnel and moved the boulder? We would all be killed.”
“It takes a few of us to get the bolder in front of the cavern entrance. One man cramped in the tunnel would struggle to shift it, no matter how strong he was and the gap would be enough to run a sword through. Come on, let’s get inside. We have chores to do.”
When they got to the cave Matilda had already built up the fire, giving them light and somewhere to cook a meal for when the men returned from Mossley.
* * * * *
It was a three-hour walk up through the twin peaks before they got to the town of Mossley. They walked along a foot wide plank over the ditch to the locked gate. During the hours of darkness, the plank would be withdrawn, so if they remained in the town too late they would have to exit by the main gate and walk around the ditch.
"Come on, Morgan, open the gate," Baldwin shouted.
Morgan already recognised them and he unlocked and opened the small gate. "Good to see you again, Baldwin," he said. "The mussels look good as usual. I'll get some from the market later."
"Take some now."
"Okay, but I'll pay you."
"Don't insult me," Morgan. "What's mine is yours."
"And what's mine is mine," Morgan replied and they both laughed but Elfwine did not find it funny. "I'll take a break and meet you in The Bull in about an hour," Morgan said. "Save me the mussels and I'll get them in there."
Baldwin and Elfwine set off for the market square. "We all work hard for our living," Elfwine said. "It's not right you give it away to your friends for nothing."
"Sorry, I didn't think. But I'll pay for his mussels out of my own money."
They went to the food stall that always gave them the best deal. The stall owner, a stout and pleasant woman greeted them.
"Always good to see you two, especially with that lovely fresh food you bring me from The Flashes. But tell me, Baldwin, how is Erica? She has not been to town for weeks now."
"We are all busy at the moment, what with the crops and that raid by the pirates, destroying our home. But what about you, where is Alfred today?"
"He is out at our plot gathering some more vegetables for our stall. But down to business, let's see what you have got for me." They left the stall with Morgan's mussels, a leg of goat, a pouch of wine, and some coins.
"So we still have a few coins," Elfwine said. "Let's call at the inn and have a drink with your friend Morgan."
"We all work hard for our living," Baldwin said. "It's not right you spend it on ale."
Elfwine looked back at him and just shook his head and grinned.
They walked into the inn and up to the bar. "Flora not in today?" Baldwin asked the innkeeper.
"You've just missed her. She's gone to meet one of the guards, I think. You'll have to carry your own jugs."
They were not there long before Morgan walked in with Flora. He turned to Flora. “These are the friends I was telling you about. And this is Flora.”
“Hello, Flora. We have met before when we first called in here," Baldwin said.
“Yes," Flora said. "And how are you Elfwine?"
"You know Elfwine too?" Morgan said.
"Yes, he's been in here a lot with an elderly man. When I was a young girl I had a bit of a crush on Elfwine." She smiled at him. "Didn't I?"
"And I on you," Elfwine said.
"Well he has a wife now," Morgan said.
"I know that. Arabella was a friend of mine. Do I detect a hint of jealousy, Morgan?"
"Don't be silly. I'll go and get some ale, as the serving wench is not working at the moment."
His friends laughed as he walked off.
"So you and Morgan are friends now?" Elfwine said.
“More than friends. Morgan lives with me.”
Morgan returned and put the jug on the table with two fresh mugs.
“Didn’t like the barrack-room then, Morgan?”
“No. They wouldn't let me take Flora into the room. So because Flora was continually pestering me to move in with her, I moved into her dwelling, just over the road. It’s only small but it’s cosy.”
"Bloody cheek," Flora said. "It was you that was pestering me."
"Which one of us do you believe, Baldwin?" Morgan said.
"Flora, of course."
Morgan only had one drink before setting off back to his duty at the small gate. Flora took Morgan's mussels across to her dwelling and went back to serving at the inn.
Baldwin and Elfwine had just started on their second jug of ale when the warning horn sounded across the town. The innkeeper took a huge sword from a cupboard and laid it on the bar.
"What is it?" Baldwin called out.
"Looks like a raid," the innkeeper said. "Probably Vialians." A man looked in and called out something to the innkeeper. The innkeeper then turned to Baldwin and Elfwine. "They are coming from seaward, so they must be pirates. That's good. Their inaccurate powder pistols are no match for our arrows, as they found out to their cost the last time they paid us a visit."
The two men grabbed their goods and ran out and across town back towards the small gate.
"Pirates would have been to the cave," Elfwine said. "The flimsy pole gate would not give our folk much time to get into the bolt hole, especially if they had not seen them in time?"
"There were no pirates in the bay when we left," Baldwin said. "So the tide must have been high when they got there and the cave would have been cut off," Baldwin said. "But there again they do have small boats."
"They would probably leave it because the waves are strong in that channel. Let's hope that they are planning to raid the cave on the way back when it will be easier to get in."
"We must get back there before them, Elfwine."
"But how do we get out of here if the pirates are at the gates?"
"It depends how many there are," Baldwin said. "Pirates are not the fittest of men. If we can clear them from the gate, we can leave our goods with Morgan and we may be able to make a run for it. They would never catch us."