A town in fear.
Matilda was nearly always the first up in the morning. Her first task would be to fan the embers back to life in the hearth if possible to rekindle the fire. The others soon followed and Osbert was often sent to collect some eggs. “Have we much bread left, Erica?” Matilda asked.
“We have enough for now but we will need to make some more for tomorrow.”
Elfwine was the last to rise and after he congratulated Baldwin and Erica he sat with the men and told them what happened at Mossley and they told him about the loss of the ship.
“That is such a shame,” Elfwine said. “The cannons from that ship would have been of great use for the defences at Mossley.”
“Or we could have used them here,” Osbert said. Dunstan looked at him and shook his head.
Elfwine gave a smile at the thought of cannons guarding The Flashes. Erica and Matilda were chatting as Matilda boiled some eggs on the hot embers of the fire and Elfwine stood up and walked over to speak to Erica.
“When I got back last night I noticed that you and Baldwin seemed cramped up in your small bed space.”
Erica gave a laugh. “Yes, Baldwin almost fell off the edge a couple of times.”
“And you don’t get much privacy with Osbert so close. My bed space is much larger and more secluded and I don’t need so much room now. It makes sense for us to swap places.”
“That is a wonderful idea and a very thoughtful one too,” Matilda said.
"It's the only wedding gift I can give you and I know Arabella would want me to do it."
“Thank you so much, Elfwine. I love you like a brother.” She looked at Osbert. “Or maybe more.” Osbert sent across a bad look. “Only joking,” she said and Osbert started laughing.
She gave Elfwine a hug and kissed his cheek. “Can we swop the bedding now?”
“No,” Matilda said. “After we have eaten.”
After breakfast, Matilda and Erica started to change the bedding and Elfwine took up his bow. “I’ll see if I can get us some rabbit for dinner,” he said. “The tide’s wrong so we won’t get seafood to the market in time today. Maybe I’ll get up earlier tomorrow for it. Are you coming, Baldwin?”
“I’ll get another bow,” he said.
“I’ll come as well,” Osbert said.
Dunstan shook his head. “You have work to do in the garden.”
“Erica can do that.”
“It’s your task today; Erica will be helping with the bread making.”
Osbert set off to the small bay and Baldwin and Elfwine set off for the wooded area. “We may be lucky and get a pheasant again,” Baldwin said.
“Maybe we will, but we will probably only get rabbits. I did get a boar once but have never seen one since. We had a great meal that day.”
Elfwine bagged the first rabbit and Baldwin missed the second. “Don’t worry, Baldwin. There seems to be plenty about today. Hold it though, Baldwin. Don’t move, don’t move a muscle.” Elfwine very slowly loaded and raised his bow.
Baldwin tried to move his eyes without moving his head too much, thinking they would have another pheasant. Elfwine let loose and Baldwin turned to see a deer. The injured deer started to run and Elfwine caught it with another arrow and the deer dropped. The men ran over to the kill. “That’s a lot of meat,” Baldwin said.
“We are lucky,” Elfwine said. “They rarely come this far out of the forests.” He took some twine from his bag and started to tie the feet. “We will need a pole, Baldwin.”
Baldwin took out his sword and cut through the base of a small tree and trimmed it down. They hung the deer from the pole through its legs and set off for home.”
Dunstan was pleased when he saw the prize. It was always a bonus to the family when a large animal was brought back. Dunstan sorted out his knives to commence with his butchering skills.
They took the deer to a stone slab in the small bay and right away Dunstan began to clean and cut up the animal.
“We’ll keep some of it but we can take some to the market tomorrow,” Elfwine said. “And we can take some of those pirate’s cutlasses and daggers and sell them to the blacksmith. We will earn well tomorrow.” Later, a pleasant aroma was in the cave as Matilda turn-roasted some of the fresh venison.
* * * * *
The following morning Elfwine and Baldwin were about to set off for Mossley market. "Be careful," Erica said. "There has been so much trouble with raiders just lately."
"Don't worry about us," Baldwin said. "Just make sure someone keeps a lookout for pirates."
"The pirates have all been killed," Erica said.
"I'm sure that they were not the only pirates out there." He kissed Erica and walked off with Elfwine.
They got to town and Morgan greeted them at the small gate and arranged to meet them later in The Bull Inn. They were soon at the usual market food stall. "What have you got for me today?" the woman said.
"Fresh deer," Elfwine said. "Butchered yesterday."
"That will sell well. Nobody wants to go far from the fence with all the attacks going on. We are almost out of vegetables, though Alfred dashes out for some now and then but to tell the truth, I think he is terrified. We have all lost friends to the murderous Vialians. Even the cattle and goat herders don't stray far into the meadow and they keep the livestock tethered so they can easily get them back to safety. We pray the raiders will move on, they are destroying our town."
"I'm sure things will get better soon," Baldwin said.
As they walked away Elfwine turned to Baldwin. "You are a bit optimistic," he said. "I think things may get worse here before they get better."
"I know, but we need to keep the peasant's spirits up don't we." Baldwin looked back at Elfwine and laughed but Elfwine just shook his head.
They called to see the blacksmith. "Four cutlasses, two broadswords, and six daggers. Can you use them?" Elfwine said.
"Oh yes," the blacksmith said. "They seem of good quality."
"The pirates only want the best," Baldwin said.
"Not much call for the cutlasses but I can do something with them."
The two men walked away happy. "We have made good money today," Elfwine said.
"We could have made more of you hadn't thrown the pistols into the sea."
Elfwine chose to ignore the comment. "Let's go to the inn, Morgan should be on his mid-day break soon. I'm sure he will be happy to hear about your new marital status."
They walked into the Inn and Flora was busy serving ale. “What time will Morgan be in for his lunch?” Baldwin asked.
“Anytime or no time. It all depends what is happening. But sit down and I’ll fetch you some ale. Do you want some goat pie, or bread and cheese?”
“No, just ale,” Elfwine said.
Flora brought a large jug and two mugs and put them on the table. “I’d better get another mug; here’s Morgan now.”
Morgan greeted his friends as he sat at the table. “I have something to tell you, but first, how is everyone at The Flashes?”
“All is well now,” Elfwine said. “There is some good news in fact; your friend Baldwin has taken Erica as his wife.”
“Well, congratulations, Baldwin. It looks as if you are going to try and prove me wrong this time, doesn't it?”
“Yes, I suppose it does.”
“Prove, wrong, what?” Elfwine said.
“Nothing,” Baldwin said. “Just a private joke. So, what is it you have to tell us, Morgan?”
“One of the guards caught a Vialian spy entering the camp. I persuaded him to give me some information. The man who leads the fighting is called Guy; he is the son of the leader who I suppose is getting old. The spy says they are still about fifty to sixty strong though he could be mistaken.”
“Or he could be lying,” Elfwine said.
“Fifty would probably be enough to defeat the guards here in a prolonged assault.”
“What is your strength here?” Baldwin said.
“Archers and warriors are no more than twenty fit men now. And there are about forty townsfolk who would take up arms.”
“Townsfolk,” Baldwin said. “You can probably discount most of them. In close combat, they would be slaughtered.”
“Maybe.” Morgan looked around to make sure they could not be heard. “But the mayor has hired some warriors and he expects them here within the next few days.”
“If they are any good and there are enough of them, then the town’s trouble might be over.”
“So this man Guy. The spy says that he and his father are well-known bandits. But I have never heard of them,” Morgan said.
Baldwin shook his head.
“Me neither,” Elfwine said. “Did he give the father’s name?”
“Yes, Oliver Fenglast.”
Elfwine had been looking down at his ale but suddenly and noticeably he flicked his head up.
“You know him?” Morgan asked.
“I've heard the name before. Is the spy still living?”
Morgan laughed. “Of course he is. He’s in the cell.”
“Can I have a word with him?”
“I don't see why not. Drink up and I’ll take you to him.”
“More ale?” Flora called.
“No, not just now, Flora," Morgan said." We’re too busy but don't worry the light in you life will soon return.”
"Yes, I'm sure he will when you've gone out."
The men walked outside and Morgan called out to a guard. “What are you doing?”
“I'm just doing a patrol of the streets, sir."
“Never mind that, get over to the small gate and cover for me for a while. I need to go to the guard master's office.”
“Yes, sir, of course,” the guard said and ran off towards the gate.
“Sir!” Baldwin said and gave a laugh.
“Like I told you before, Baldwin, I wouldn’t take this job unless I had some authority.”
They walked into the cell and Weasel’s fear was more severe at the sight of three big, strong-looking, men. “What do you want? I thought you were letting me free.”
Elfwine sat opposite Weasel. “Oliver Fenglast. Where is he?”
“I told your friend where they are, Elfwine, and where the camp is.”
"You know me?"
"I have seen you about the town."
"Have you spoken to Fenglast about me?"
"No, no, only Guy, he was asking who destroyed his gunpowder."
"So you were spying on me, but no matter. Back to business and you would be well-advised not to lie to me. Where is Oliver Fenglast?”
“I’m not lying, I want my freedom.”
“I know Oliver Fenglast. He will not stay in a camp; will not stay in a tent.”
Baldwin looked at Morgan and raised his eyebrows.
“No, you are right. That is why they are camped there. There is a cottage at the back what Oliver took over and moved in.”
“Oliver! Friend of yours is he?”
“No, I just work for Guy, I hardly see his father.”
“All right. What do you know about a Vialian spy who works from the left peak?”
“Nothing, I know nothing of him.” He looked up at Morgan.
“I’d think again if I were you,” Morgan said.
“I meant I don’t know him. I have only seen him once. He lives in a hide up there and only reports in if there is a ship in the bay near The Flashes and he can see another bay further up the coast towards Advent. He also gets a view of some of the approaches to Mossley and reports back on any large movements.”
“Quite a lot for someone you don’t know about,” Elfwine said. “Why has Fenglast a strong interest in sacking such a small no-account town like Mossley?”
“He has no intention of sacking the town. He wants it intact so he can use it as a base and develop it to accommodate the hundreds who he believes would want to join him there.”
“And what would be the future of the town’s folk?”
“The skilled he would make use of, the fit would become slaves, the women would be used as prostitutes, and the remainder would have no future.”
"So you live amongst these good people and try to give Fenglast the means to bring that horror onto them? Don't answer that," Elfwine said before Weasel even had a chance to. He looked at Morgan. “Can I kill this man?”
“No, he is under my protection.” Weasel breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The men left the offices. “You seem to know more of this Fenglast than you are letting on,” Morgan said.
“It’s personal,” Elfwine said. "I have a score to settle with Fenglast."
Morgan just shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll have to get back to my post. If you two want to go back to the Inn, I’ll see you when I finish my time.”
“No. I’m going back to the cave,” Baldwin said.
“So am I,” Elfwine said. “But I’ll make a detour over the left peak.”
“I’m with you then,” Baldwin said. The words had just left his mouth when the warning horn sounded across the town. “Not again,” he said.
“It might be a false alarm,” Morgan said. “We have had quite a few just lately. But we had better go to the fence and see.”
“How do you know they will be on this side?” Baldwin said.
“The other side is a swamp and a nasty one at that," Morgan said.”
"How have they dug a trench in a swamp?" Baldwin asked.
"The trench is there in firm ground," Elfwine said. "But the land drops down into the swamp about twenty yards away."
"They could still launch an attack from along the side then?"
"They could but it would be very costly," Morgan said. "They would be easy targets for the archers with no escape except back the way they came. We still have a few guards on lookout there. Just in case."
"If I were in charge of the Vialians, I would see that as a weak point and would attack there," Baldwin said.
"And your men would be slaughtered," Morgan said.
They were soon on the ledge looking out. “This is no false alarm,” Baldwin said. “There are lots of them coming this way. There are only a few peasants running for the small gate. They should easily outrun the Vialians.”
“But they won’t outrun that bastard on the white horse,” Elfwine said.