Tragedy at The Flashes.
Chapter 14The pirate’s rowed their boats quietly into the bay. Squid's boat went forward and he noticed some long boats pulled up on the shore and no sign of warrior sentries on the ship. They pulled alongside the Duke's ship and two men worked their way up the side with spikes and hooks. They tried to work as quietly as they could but need not have worried because the guard on deck was fast asleep and he was clearly a sailor, not a warrior. The two men got onto the deck and crept up on the guard with daggers drawn and the guard would never see daylight again. One of the pirates gave a gull call and the other boats came alongside.
The pirates on deck lowered rope ladders and the rest of the men came up.
The captain was pleased with the result so far. “I can’t believe our luck, only one guard and he was asleep," he said.
“It’s as we hoped, Captain Swing. The Duke’s men have all gone ashore. I’d wager there are less than a dozen crew on board.”
“Well, you had better get the men to go find them all and give them my regards before you say goodbye to them.” The captain laughed and the men laughed with him. “Quiet you, idiots, you don’t want to wake them up until you’re ready. Now get to it.”
“The pirates searched the ship and soon all the crew were killed, most of them had been sleeping with no chance of defence. Swing went to the captain’s cabin and found him murdered in his bed. “Idiots,” he said. “Squid,” he screamed out and Squid came running.
“The idiots killed the captain.”
“You told them to kill everyone,” Squid said.
“I didn't mean the captain, you idiot. He may have a hidden hoard like the Duke and now we might never find it.”
“Some nice silver here though,” Squid said.
“Get it loaded and anything else of use, good food, weapons, tools, money, get it all loaded and away. Then you can pull this cabin apart. The Duke's gold must be somewhere. But hurry, we need to clear it all before the Duke’s men get back.”
* * * * *
“Well,” the mayor said. “That was a surprise for the Villians. Do you have the figures yet, Duke?”
“I lost nine men. The raiders, I won’t know the body count until tomorrow when all the bodies have been collected. But I think with those killed in the battle and later the street fighting it will be at least fifty dead. I don't think many if any escaped.”
“It was a fine battle indeed, you’re men are fierce warriors.”
“That is true, and I thank you for settling the bill so quick.”
“And I thank you, Morgan.” The mayor nodded towards him. “If you had not returned the gold from the pirates we would have struggled to pay the Duke. It was not all of our funds but it was a good part of it.”
“I wouldn’t put your gold away just yet,” Morgan said. “You still need the Duke’s services. Eighteen civilians were killed or badly wounded. More importantly, we lost eight guards at the other end of town. That only leaves us with ten or maybe less to protect the town. I also will need ten of the Duke’s warriors to go with me to hunt down and take care of Fenglast.”
“Is that necessary?” the mayor said. “Surely he is finished now. All his men have perished.”
“Morgan’s right,” the Duke said. “Fenglast would not commit all his men to the battle and leave himself unprotected. He probably has ten or twelve good warriors with him. In a month or two that number could be forty, and then he will be back.”
The mayor looked at Morgan. “But you said the spy, Weasel, told you he only had fifty or sixty men.”
“The spy lied or he can’t count very well.”
“Morgan, when do you want the men?” the Duke asked.
“I would like to leave within the hour.”
“Okay, you go and get ready and I’ll bring the men to the main gate after I have discussed money with the mayor.”
Morgan had a quick meal with Flora and Elfwine and then went to see Baldwin. “The doctor said you need to stay in here for a few days to make sure you heal right,” Morgan said.
“Not a chance,” Baldwin said. “They will be worried at The Flashes. At first light tomorrow, I’m going home.”
“You can’t go on your own with your arm like that. I’ll get Thomas to go with you.”
“I can manage.”
“No arguing. I’ll have Thomas here at dawn. The wolves round here won't attack able-bodied people. But if you're on your own and they think you are injured, you might be on their lunch menu."
Baldwin gave a laugh. "You do have a vivid imagination, Morgan. But thanks."
Morgan went to the gate and the Duke’s men were there waiting along with Elfwine.
“If possible,” Elfwine said. “Can you leave Fenglast to me?”
Morgan smiled. “Agreed,” he said. “If possible.”
They walked out into the meadow. "Due east for three hours," Morgan said. "That's what Weasel said."
"He might have lied."
"Doesn't matter that much. We'll walk across to where we saw the horse and I'm sure the fifty plus men must have left us an easy track when they came here."
* * * * *
The pirates had cleared two loads in each of three boats back to their ship, with Captain Swing keeping one boat back just in case. As it got light the captain and Squid looked across to The Flashes. “Best post a lookout," Captain Swing said. "If the Duke’s men show up it won't give us much time to get away before they row across."
“Their longboats are on the beach. It would stop them completely if we were to smash holes in the boats,” Squid said.
“You idiot, Squid. Why didn't you say something last night; we could have used those boats. Anyway, bring an axe and get the men in the boat and we’ll get their boats wrecked so they can't follow us if they show up.”
Squid was looking towards the shore but was not looking at the boats. “There’s someone down there,” Squid said.
The captain looked over. “They must be local people. They don't look like guards. Come on let’s go and say hello.”
Dunstan and Osbert were going to the shore to gather some mussels. “Can’t we kill a chicken?” Osbert said. “I don’t like mussels much.”
“Well it’s mussels today but the men might be back soon and they can shoot some rabbits or some other game in the woods,” Dunstan said.
“I can use a bow and arrow. I can shoot a rabbit.”
“Maybe you can but we’re having mussels.”
Matilda walked over from the cave. “Erica is having a lie-down, she’s feeling a bit sickly.”
“Do you think that’s a sign, Matilda?”
“I don’t know it’s a bit early.”
“A sign of what?” Osbert said.
“Never you mind.” She looked over towards the ship. “It looks as if some more of the Duke’s men are coming ashore.”
Dunstan looked over. “It’s probably a hunting party. They probably want some fresh meat themselves.”
“As long as they keep their eyes off our chickens and geese,” Osbert said. "If I can't have one then neither can they."
Dunstan laughed. “It all depends on what they have to offer in return.”
The boat landed and the men started walking over.
“Well, they’re not the Duke’s men," Dunstan said. "They look more like seafarers, obviously some of the ship’s crew.”
“And a rough-looking crew they are,” Matilda said. “I’ll leave you to talk with them.” She gave a laugh and turned to walk back to the cave.
Dunstan walked up to the men. Hello,” he said. “And welcome to our home.”
“Thank you,” Squid said. He looked over at Matilda. "And I hope your welcome gives us your valuables and the use of your women."
Dunstan realised his mistake too late and he made a move for his sword. Squid brought a cutlass from behind his back and thrust it through Dunstan’s stomach.
Dunstan cried out in agony and Matilda turned. Osbert pulled out his dagger and was quickly mutilated by the swords and cutlasses of four pirates.
Matilda screamed. All the pirates turned to look at her and Erica rushed out to the cave entrance as Matilda began to run with the pirates chasing after her.
“Get to the cavern,” Matilda shouted and Erica went back inside and climbed onto the ledge.
Matilda closed the gate and tried to secure it but was too late and the pirates forced their way in. She tried to run through to the other bay but was caught and held by two of the pirates.
“Ooo look. A nice mature old bird and quite the pretty thing for her age,” Squid said. “Now what shall we do with her, Captain Swing?”
“Now that you’ve told her my name, Squid, you will have to kill her,” the captain said.
“Can we have a bit of fun with her first?”
“Help yourself but make sure she is not alive when you are finished.” He walked up to Matilda. “There was another one. Where is she?”
Matilda spat in his face and received a hard back-hander in return, splitting her lip open. He put his dagger under her right eye. “I can take your eyes out one at a time. Now, where is she?”
“She’s out in the bay. There’s a hundred hide holes out there in case of trouble. That’s where I was going before your men caught me. I have no idea which one she’s in.”
The captain walked to the smaller bay and looked out. "It’ll take forever to search this bay. We don’t have the time." He walked back and passed Matilda without a glance. “When you’ve finished with her take this place apart. There may be something of value here though I doubt it.” He took the axe and walked over to set about the duke’s boats.
Erica covered her ears to try and stop the sound of Matilda’s screams but it did no good. She crawled through the tunnel into the cavern. The screams had stopped but then started again. She felt as if she should go and help Matilda but knew it would be foolish; she may kill one of the men but then it would be her turn to scream. The child, she had to think of Baldwin’s child. She couldn’t move the boulder and began to panic. She took a cutlass and wedged it repeatedly and eventually it moved and she kept it going until it rolled into place. The little bit of light from the cave was now blocked out and she was in near-total darkness. She could hear things being smashed as the pirates looted the place. She heard squawking from some chickens as they were taken through the cave then it all went quiet. Erica was shaking and her heart was pounding as she lay on the floor quietly sobbing.
She wanted to take a look outside. It had been quiet for a long time and she thought the men must have gone. But although she stood up a few times, she was unsure and sat back down. She wondered if Matilda was still alive and maybe she needed her help. She stood up again and decided that she must go and take a look outside.
She took the cutlass and tried to move the boulder but this time there was no movement. She tried and tried but realised that it was impossible for her to shift it. A thought sent fear through her. What if none of her family had survived the attack, and Baldwin and Elfwine had been killed at Mossley? No one would know she was there. She would never get out.