Another spy is found.
Chapter 9Elfwine managed to outrun his pursuers. They had stopped at the marshes and Elfwine assumed that they perhaps feared an ambush and had returned to the beach. He carried on and arrived at the small gate. “Where’s Morgan?” he asked.
“He's on a break,” the guard said. “You’ll probably find him in The Bull Inn with Flora.”
True enough, Morgan was sitting with Flora and Thomas. Morgan saw him and went to greet him.
“Elfwine, are all my friends safe? I saw the Vialians pass but could do nothing to warn you all.”
“We are all safe. The Vialians were there to meet with the pirates and seemed to show no interest in us. But as a precaution, Baldwin and Dunstan’s family are all safe in their hidden cavern. I am here with some bad news though. It seems the Vialians killed the remaining pirates and have taken lots of barrels of what I think is gunpowder.”
“It is good they have killed the pirates,” Thomas said.
"Yes it is, Thomas, and I rejoice in the fact that the last of them have perished," Elfwine said. “But maybe it would have been better if the pirates had won. The Vialians now have enough gunpowder to destroy your ditch and fence defences in many places.”
“Well, if there were twenty when they passed here and ten were slaves...” Morgan said but Elfwine interrupted him.
“There were no slaves, it was a trick to fool the pirates. We must figure that maybe they lost a few men, but most will be coming through here soon.”
“Maybe they will attack but with only that many men they might wait for more men to come or they might continue on to their camp,” Morgan said. “I’ll go onto the fence ledge. I'm interested to see what they do. But if they do just pass by, I'm sure it won't be long until they work out a plan to attack us with the powder and a full complement of men.”
“Let’s go and take a look then,” Elfwine said. The three men left the inn and went over to the ledge on the fence.
“That’s the track on the other side of the field isn't it?” Elfwine asked. “That’s where the carts will pass?”
“Yes,” Thomas said. “But our arrows will not reach that far.”
“Mine will,” Elfwine said. “Thomas, go and fetch some rags, some lamp oil, and a flame in a lamp.”
Thomas looked at Morgan as if he was looking for permission. “Go on then,” Morgan said.
Morgan turned to Elfwine. “I know what you are thinking, Elfwine. I’ve seen flaming arrows used before, but it will slow the arrow down and you might still fall short.”
“Not with this longbow. I can send a normal arrow way past that track, so the flame should easily reach.”
Thomas was soon back with the oil and rags. Elfwine began tearing strips of rag and attaching them to the arrow points.
“Still no sign of anyone coming from The Flashes,” Morgan said and it was over an hour later when the Vialians eventually came into sight. “No sign of anyone coming from the other direction,” Morgan said. “I think they are going through. Let’s hope so.”
A dozen arrows were prepared and soaked with oil. “Thomas, turn the flame up on the lamp,” Elfwine said.
The raiders were passing, shouting, laughing, and making gestures towards the town confidently believing they were out of range of any arrows. Elfwine picked up one of his arrows. “Just a few more feet you morons.” He lit an arrow and let it loose but it fell a few feet short causing more laughter and gestures from the Vialians.
“Thomas, gather as many archers and warriors as you can at the main gate,” Morgan said. “If this fails we will have to launch an attack. We can't let them go with that powder.”
Thomas set off and Elfwine looked at Morgan “Don't worry. Just a bit of adjustment needed,” he said and lit another arrow. This one hit a barrel. It was quickly pulled out by one of the Vialians but another wedged between two barrels near some leaking gunpowder. The man tried to pull it out but the flaming head snapped off and remained lodged. Another went through a gap and set light to some straw. Another missed but two more made their mark and the cart was soon in flames. The men started to run but left it too late. The cart erupted in a multitude of explosions sending a great cloud of smoke flame and dirt in all directions. The second cart was on fire from the blast and the few barrels of rum exploded in a great plume of flame.
“A good half of them must be dead,” Morgan said.
“Let’s finish the job,” Elfwine shouted and he jumped down from the ledge and began running for the main gate.
Morgan followed him and shouted,” are you on some kind of a quest?”
There were eighteen archers and warriors at the gate and Morgan and Elfwine led them out and across the field towards the Vialians. The surviving Vialians were dazed and shocked when the Mossley guard fell on them and they were all quickly put to the sword.
Morgan looked at the devastation. A great crater where the powder went off and the other cart still on fire but most of its contents strewn over the field.
“All right men gather up any gold and silver that you can. I'll keep watch towards the forest. If Vialian re-enforcements show up we will have to bolt for the gate.”
The mayor was at the gate when the men returned. He congratulated the men for their action and was pleased with the amount of treasure that they had brought from the fields to increase the town's wealth, though a lot of the gold coins remained in the men’s pockets.
* * * * *
At The Flashes, they were all outside looking over at the pirate ship as it drifted further out to sea. What started an hour ago as a single plume of smoke was now an inferno with flames coming from the windows and portholes. Smoke flames and sparks billowing up into the sky; a slight breeze fanning the flames.
“Why would they do that?” Osbert said. “We could have got some good things from that ship.”
“That’s the sort of vermin the Vialians are,” Dunstan said. “They are worse than pirates stealing what they want then destroying what's left so no one else can have it.”
“I don’t know,” Matilda said. “What with that fireship and the explosions we heard earlier from Mossley way. It’s like hell on Earth.”
“I fear for Elfwine,” Erica said. “I hope he is all right.”
“He’ll be all right,” Baldwin said. “Elfwine can look after himself. I’m sure he will tell us all about the explosions when he gets back.”
All was quiet for a while then Erica broke the silence. “Dunstan, Matilda, on a happier subject, we have news. Baldwin has something to ask you.”
They all looked at Baldwin. “What, what do you mean, Erica?” Baldwin said.
“You know. What we were talking about earlier. I want to be your wife.”
Dunstan stood up. “I have no objection, Erica. Baldwin is a good strong man but have you thought it through? Taking a husband is a life-long commitment. "
"Yes, father, I... she hesitated. "No, I mean we, have dedicated ourselves to each other."
Dunstan turned his attention to Baldwin. "And would you, Baldwin, be prepared to honour your commitment and seek a less dangerous occupation?"
"I believe I will. I like this new life I have here."
On this bad day of bad days, at last, a breath of fresh air." Matilda said. I'll adjust your bed covers Erica and make it up for two people.”
“But don’t we have to have some kind of ceremony first?” Baldwin said.
“No,” Matilda said. “We don’t bother with that. Me and Dunstan didn’t have a ceremony. If it’s good for us, it’s good for our daughter. You just make sure you get a blessing from the vicar the next time you’re in Mossley.”
“Right,” Osbert said. “Shall I get a pouch of wine out?”
“Yes, let’s celebrate the wonderful news,” Dunstan said.
Baldwin sat on a rock completely baffled by a conversation he had not expected to happen so quickly.
Later that night, Elfwine returned to the cave and most were asleep. Only Osbert remained awake by the fire waiting to open the gate for him. Elfwine was pleased to hear the news about Baldwin and Erica and it came as no surprise to him. However, he didn't comment much as he was eager to get to his bed.
* * * * *
Guy is the son of the leader of the Vialians. He rode his white horse up to his tent and dismounted. He stood holding the rein for half a minute and the groom rushed over. “What have I told you about keeping me waiting?” He punched the groom in the face knocking him to the floor before slapping the flank of the horse. The horse ran off. “Now go and fetch my horse back and if you are more than ten minutes I’ll have your head on a pole.” The groom jumped up and chased after the horse. Guy spoke to one of the two bodyguards outside his tent. “Is the Weasel back from Mossley yet?"
"He is," one of the bodyguards said.
"Well go and fetch him then,” he shouted.
The Weasel was soon bodily thrown into the tent.
Guy was sat on his throne-like chair. "So, Weasel, my gunpowder was blown up. What sort of bloody liberty is that, after all my planning?”
“I’m sorry, Sire.”
“Sorry,” Guy shouted. “Why, was it your fault that blew it up?”
“No, no, Sire.”
“Well tell me. That’s what you are paid for after all. Give me the names of those that destroyed my plans.”
“It was a man from out of town.”
“A man, one man?”
“Yes, it was an archer by the name of Elfwine. He lives down in a cave at The Flashes. He is the son of Balfor.”
“Balfor!" Guy gave a loud exaggerated laugh. "I remember Balfor. Supposed to be the best archer in the land. But his skills let him down when my father ran him through with a lance. So it was his son who destroyed my powder.”
“And killed the men.”
“Yes, and that. Well, I’ll have to pay a visit to The Flashes, won’t I? And let history be repeated as I kill the son of Balfor myself. Now, Weasel, get out of my sight and back to Mossley, but don’t leave it too long to report back, you don’t want to anger me.”
“No, Sire, but the guards are getting a bit suspicious if I go out too much.”
“I said you don’t want to anger me,” he shouted and Weasel backed out of the tent giving multiple apologies.
It was dark when Weasel got back to Mossley main gate carrying a bag with a single rabbit inside.
“Bit late aren’t you? We were just about to raise the bridge,” one of the guards said.
“Been checking my trap for a rabbit for my supper,” Weasel said and opened the bag to show the guard.
The guard opened the gate and let him in but frisked him and took his dagger. “Just come to the office a minute,” the guard said.
“Why?” Weasel said. “I’ve not had to do this before.”
“And you may not have to do this again.”
“What do you mean, what’s going on?”
They walked in the office and the guard opened a door to a cell. “Get in,” he said.
“But you can’t do this. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Despite his protests, the guard pushed Weasel in and locked the door. He spoke to the other guard. “Run down to The Bull Inn and tell Morgan he is needed at the office.”
The guard was soon back with Morgan. “What is the problem that you pull me away from my ale and my woman for?” Morgan said.
“Sorry, sir, but a small-time trapper says he has been out for a rabbit. I know though, that he has been out all day because when you led the men out to fight the Vialians after the explosion, I saw him sneak out with you all and head off to the forest.”
“Good work,” Morgan said. “Let’s have a word with him?”
Morgan walked into the cell and his size and physique sent a bolt of fear through Weasel.
“So, you are a spy for the Vialians?” Morgan said.
“No, of course not. What makes you...” Morgan grabbed the man by his coat and threw him across the room.
“Right I’ll say it again. You are a spy for the Vialians.”
“I’ve told you, no. Please let me go.”
Morgan took out his dagger and pressed it against the man’s throat. “I haven’t got time for this; I have ale and female company waiting for me at the Inn. “Give me the right answer or I will cut your throat and you will die here, now.”
“All right, all right I'll tell you. Guy made me snoop here; he would kill me otherwise. I am not safe here. If he finds out I've told you anything he will send someone here to kill me.”
Morgan stepped away from the man. “Maybe you think you are in a lose-lose situation but you are not. You have choices. You either tell me what I want to know and I'll see you get to start a new life down the coast at Advent. Or you don’t and you die right now. Your friend Guy is no longer in this picture.”
“You give me your word you will get me out.”
“Yes, I give my word. Now, who is this Guy?”
“He is the second in command and a very evil man. His father is still in charge but more in the background.”
“So Guy is in charge of the fighting. And the father, who is he?”
“Oliver, Oliver Fenglast. You might have heard of him.”
“No, can’t say I have and I wouldn’t forget a name like that. So, your man Guy, how would I recognise him?"
"He is always on a white horse. He is the only one with a white horse. There are only a few other horses but they are all black.”
“Oh, I think I have seen him in a raid on the town, but what if he is not on a horse?"
"He has evil eyes; two different colours, one dark and one light."
"So how many men has he on strength?”
“He has lost a lot of men what with that explosion and other raids. But he still must have about fifty to sixty followers.”
“So if I want to go and talk to Guy, which direction do I go and how long will it take me to get there?”
“Out the gate and due east. It should take about three hours.”
Morgan walked out the door. “You will be safe here. I’ll get some food and drink sent over.”
“When can I go to Advent?”
“When I know you have been telling the truth. If you haven’t, you will hang.”