The Vialians enter the Flashes.
Morgan and Thomas ran from The Bull Inn through the side streets to the nearest point of the fence." “Let’s see what is happening,” Morgan said and they climbed onto the ledge and looked out across the fields.
"It doesn't look like they are about to attack," Thomas said. "And there are no horsemen with them."
“Well, they are passing too far away for our archers,” Morgan said. “What are they up to?”
"They might be planning to turn and attack the small gate again," Thomas said.
“Possible, but it looks more like they are heading for the sea.”
"Why would they do that?"
“I don't know but my friends are down there at The Flashes. If they are going there, there’s nothing I can do to alert my friends unless there is another way around to cut them off.”
“There is another way if you go round the left peak,” Thomas said. “But it will add about an hour to the journey."
"That's no good then is it?"
"From what I've seen they are well prepared at The Flashes and don't forget they have Elfwine, the finest archer in the land.”
“Who told you that?” Morgan said.
They both laughed briefly before Morgan continued. “True nevertheless. I just pray they keep safe and I wonder why the Vialians are heading that way at all.”
“Look at those two lines of men roped together,” Thomas said. “They are slaves and the raiders have carts with them. It looks like they are going to trade with the pirates for something. They must know that the pirate ship is desperately short of crewmen after their failed robbery.”
“How do they know about that? And how do they know the pirate ship is still there?”
“People talk, Morgan. Traders going to and fro from here, hunters meeting up, and there is always a fear the Vialians have a spy here and possibly one on the peak looking out to the sea. Yes, they know all right, and I’ll wager they know about the town's gold now as well.”
Morgan looked along the fence line at the defenders. “Look, look how sparse our men are. And half of them are not even experienced fighters. Shopkeepers and farmers.”
“Yes, it is a bit of a concern. That nearest archer must be fifty yards away. If he falls it will leave a hundred yards unprotected. We need more good men.”
Morgan waited until the column of men had gone from sight and then went to see the mayor to report on the passing of the column.
“Things are not looking good, it's almost as if we are under siege,” Morgan said. “Luckily they didn't attack this time. But if they keep on with the attacks. It will only be a matter of time before they get in. Me and my friend Baldwin are from the port of Advent. It’s only about fifty miles from here and I know there are warriors there who would follow me for the right money.”
“You would probably be gone for over a week, and I really do need you here at least for a few days more. I have already sent a messenger for help and he has returned with the news that a force of warriors are making their way here to deal with the Vialians.”
“Well let’s hope they arrive in time,” Morgan said. “Another thing. One of the guards tells me there may be a spy in town. We don’t want to risk another raid through the small gate where there is only one guard at night.”
“That's a good point, Morgan. I’ll make sure the guard master doubles the guard there,” the mayor said. “Now you and your man go and enjoy the rest of your day off. It is well deserved and might be the last for a while.”
* * * * *
Baldwin and Erica left the cave on the way to get some berries and herbs from the woods. They walked up the beach and across the marsh. As they turned into the woods Erica took hold of Baldwin’s hand. “Thank you for coming with me to get the berries and stuff,” she said. “Usually Arabella comes with me. I miss her so very much, Baldwin.”
“I know, we all miss her. Her smile used to really light up the place.”
“Elfwine has still not come out of his depression. He is not coping well but that is to be expected, they adored each other.”
“They never had children?” Baldwin said.
“No,” Erica said. “I don’t know what they were waiting for. Just shows you that you never know what’s waiting around the corner.” She stopped and looked at Baldwin. “I want children. I would hate to die without having children. Do you want children Baldwin?”
“Yes, I suppose I do. When the time is right."
“I’m twenty years old. I’m at the right age and I feel the time is right for me now. Let’s do it, Baldwin, let’s make a child.”
Baldwin gave a laugh. “Are you serious?”
“Very much.” She undid her gown revealing her naked body underneath. “I know you love me, and I love you.”
Baldwin stared at the beauty of her nakedness feeling surprised but also excited. She threw her arms around him and they kissed with great passion as they moved down onto the grass. “Do it Baldwin, my love. Give me a child.”
Just over an hour later they were about to enter the marsh on their way back to the cave with a basket of berries, herbs, and some mushrooms. “What will Dunstan and Matilda say?” Baldwin asked.
“They will be all right. They always say they want grandchildren. But we won’t say anything about children until we are sure and we may have to do it a few times for it to work.”
“Oh well,” Baldwin said. “If we must we must.”
Erica laughed at the huge grin on his face. “Wasn’t it wonderful, better than I ever dreamed? I understand now why people do it even if they don't want to make a child.”
“Yes, it was good.” Baldwin stopped walking. “I heard something.” He looked down the track towards Mossley. “There’s some people coming.”
“Probably some of the town’s folk coming to gather some shellfish,” Erica said. “They do sometimes.”
"They don’t look like town folk and there are a lot of them. They look like raiders. We’d best hurry back and warn the others.” Still holding hands they set off at a fast pace to the cave. Baldwin glanced back a few times but it seemed as if the raiders were not interested in giving chase.
As they got near to the cave Erica called out, “Elfwine, there’s raiders coming through the marsh,”
Elfwine ran out and stood looking as the raiders came into sight and began to leave the marsh. “They are Vialians. What the hell are they doing here?”
“Let’s start bagging up our things for the cavern,” Matilda said.
“There’s no time, hurry and get through the tunnel. Me and Baldwin will try to hold them off. Osbert, go and secure the back gate.”
Baldwin secured the main gate and Elfwine ran to get the bows and arrows but was soon back. “We’ll see how good these firing slots are now,” he said.
“Maybe not,” Baldwin said. “They’re not coming this way. They’re heading for the boats.”
“I told you we should have hidden them,” Osbert said.
“No,” Elfwine said. “It’s better they have found them, or they might have found something else to amuse themselves.”
“There must be about twenty of them. It does look as if they are all going over to the ship.”
“If you keep an eye on them, Baldwin, me and Osbert can start bagging things up for the cavern. We best be prepared as we don’t really know what they are up to.”
* * * * *
The raiders checked the boats and then carried them down to the water. Two of them stopped behind with the carts and the rest filled the boats and began rowing towards the pirate ship.
The first boat got close and the man at the front waved a white flag.
“What is your business here,” a pirate called down while pointing a pistol at the boat.
“Trade, we have come to trade with you.”
The pirate laughed. “You come here with two boats full of men and say you want to trade. Do you take us for fools? Why should our cannons not blast you from the water?”
“These men are not here to trade. These men are slaves, they are the trade. We know you are short of men. All those that went ashore were killed on the beach or ambushed by the locals on the way back from Mossley. They are all dead.”
“It is true our men should have returned long before now. But how do I know it was not your men who ambushed them?"
"We come here as friends and we can help each other. Those that killed your crew are also our enemies and we have been at war with them for many months. With your help, we can destroy them."
"All right, come aboard and we can talk," the pirate said. "But come on your own.”
Once onboard the Vialian discreetly scanned the deck for the pirates. Only six but all had pistols.
“So,” The pirate said. “We could use some men to make up the crew to full strength but what is it you want in return?”
“Powder, we need some gunpowder to breach the defences at Mossley. We have ten slaves for ten barrels.”
“We’ll take your slaves, but for five barrels.”
“Throw in a barrel of spirit and we have a deal.”
“The pirate gave a nod. "You can start bringing the slaves up,” he said. He walked over to one of his men. “Start to bring the barrels on deck, and make sure you all have loaded pistols. There are more than ten men so they might be up to something. When all the slaves are on board wait for my order and then shoot the trader and let loose with the cannon at the boats.”
The ten came on board and the pirate began looking them over.
The pirate went to the end of the row. He began frisking the first man and felt a knife through the man’s coat. “What! This man has a knife.” They were his last words as the next man thrust a dagger into his heart. Shots were fired but the Vialians, joined by those still on the longboat, soon put all the pirates to death at the loss of only three of them.
“Let’s get all the barrels ashore. It may take a few trips so take all the powder first, and then we’ll have a look for the pirate’s loot.”
* * * * *
Baldwin and Elfwine were looking over at the ship when they heard the pistols firing followed by shouts and screams.
“Looks like we won’t have to worry about them joining forces then,” Baldwin said. “I wonder which lot were the treacherous ones.”
“Probably both,” Elfwine said. “But look, one of those two that were left behind is walking over here.” He picked up his bow. The Vialian carried on walking and got to within twenty feet of the cave. “That’s far enough," Elfwine shouted. "This can go two ways, either you turn around and walk back to your friend, or you die.”
The man was a bearded, scruffy man but he had a menacing look about him. He looked at Elfwine’s tensed arrow aimed at his chest and gave a laugh which was more like a growl. “We are a bit busy today,” he said. But maybe we can come back and have this party another time.” He spat on the floor, turned around, and walked off.
They looked back to the ship. “They are loading off barrels,” Baldwin said. “Either they are planning to get very drunk, or they are unloading gunpowder.”
“If it’s gunpowder, then Mossley could be in big trouble. They could blow a breach in the fence line and collapse the ditch.”
“I’d best go and warn Morgan,” Baldwin said.
“I’ll go,” Elfwine said.
“It’s better if you stay here.”
“I said I’ll go. I’m not arguing about this. There are too many of them if they decide to attack us. So just go and join the others in safety.”
“Well try to get to the marsh without those two cretins seeing you,” Baldwin said.
“I’ll try. But if they see me and come after me, I'll just outrun them.”
"It would be easy to go down there and deal with them. Your arrows could even take them out before we get there."
"Yes it would be easy," Elfwine said. "But the Vialians may seek retribution and the only way would be to attack the cave. We don't want that and if we don't bother them they might just think it is more important to get away with the powder."
Elfwine waited until the two men were looking out to sea then dashed to the marshes. One of the Raiders turned and saw Elfwine running. He called to his companion and they both gave chase.