Well, this chapter replaces chapter 1. In this one, our brave hero gets captured, and thrown into prison. He also looses the middle finger from his left hand. 😦
Counterferry was built on the top of a gentle incline rising to about a hundred feet. Next to it was a solid granite wall made by some sort of rockslide from the mountain that towered behind. A section of that wall had been cut out and inside it was posted a very powerful battery of ten guns that swept the flat plains before the fortress. Bastions projected from the granite wall and from these, rocks and boulders of all sorts could be dropped down. Large stores of food and ammunition had been stored up and there was a garrison of fully three thousand five hundred men. Mines had also been sunk near the fortress and had, upon exploding, killed many men. Redoubts had also be erected in commanding positions and it was only the importance of this fort that had driven Hand to try to carry such an impregnable fortress by assault.
For ten days his guns battered their walls. Every day brought the loss of the men who fired the artillery. Several desperate sallies were made by the garrison to capture the guns but Hand’s men were always on the alert. Those ten days of firing had made little effect upon the walls. In fact, they were still sound when Hand finally decided to carry the fort by a coup de main.
The men advanced under the cover of the dark. Every fifty men carried a ladder in order to enter through as many points as possible. They were supposed to plant the ladders at the same time. This they succeeded in doing and they rushed onto the walls with fierce cries. The few sentries were immediately overpowered and rushing down, the men took many of the still sleeping soldiers captive.
The commander of the fort saw that it would be useless to attempt a resistance, and silently cursed himself to leaving the fort so vulnerable. With a few of his lords, he rode off to the battery. Hand had already foreseen that this might occur and had posted some of his soldiers in between the battery and the fort. The commander was captured easily and immediately after, detachments were sent off to carry the remaining battery and the redoubts. These were captured without a struggle and thus the victory was complete.
The next day, Cuthbert was summoned by the General.
“I have just received news that one of our frontier forts are under attack. Its garrison is weak and it is short on food supplies. I need you to pass through the enemy lines and pass word to the garrison that help will arrive shortly.”
With that, Cuthbert ducked under the flap of the tent and walked out into the bright sunshine which pelted down on his back. He quickly strapped on his armor and vaulting onto his horse was soon off.
For many days he rode without seeing anybody. Then, on the fourth day of his journey, he heard somebody galloping. Not wanting to be noticed, Cuthbert urged his horse into the woods. It was none too soon, for three horsemen soon galloped past him.
He arrived in the city at midnight. He was welcomed warmly by the governor of the city whom he immediately gave the dispatch to. The governor begged him to stay, but he was eager to return to camp, so, after giving Starlight a rub down, he rode off into the darkness.
He had just left the town when he noticed a large body of horsemen riding straight at him. He picked down one with his pistols then charged, drawing his sword as he did so. When he was twenty yards from the enemy, he had an idea and drew his knife.
When he came close enough, he threw his knife with deadly accuracy and down went another man. Just then, he felt something hit his hand and upon examining it found that a bullet had carried off the middle finger from his left hand. The next thing he knew, he was in the midst of them, plunging and stabbing, parrying and feinting; but though he was an experienced player, he was soon caught on the back of his helmet by a backhanded stroke and tumbled off his horse unconscious.
When he awoke, he was lying on a tent floor. He noticed a man sitting not far from him deeply concentrated in reading a book. He looked at his finger and found that the wound had been staunched. Feeling the need to get up, Cuthbert pulled himself up to a sitting position.
Hearing the noise, the man looked up from his book.
“Hello sir,” he said. “You fought bravely last night my men tell me. Five killed and three wounded, that’s a mighty score for someone in such youth. And how is it that you are so young yet wear the uniform of a Captain? I do not know your general to be one who favors his subjects differently.”
“Then you are very right there sir. You see,” and so Cuthbert proceeded to tell him a watered down version of all his adventures. “But sir I still do not know your name.”
“I am the Earl of Danshire. Though you say you feel that your promotion is undeserved and too much, I must say I cannot agree with you on that matter.”
“That is exactly what everybody says, they all say I deserve it. But alas, I wish that backhand stroke had not caught me last night.”
“It’s the fortune of war my friend. But if you will give me your parole, you will be permitted to wander in the limits of the camp till you are sent to Fort Stenson.”
Knowing full well that there was no chance of his escaping, Cuthbert gave his parole and getting up, left the tent. Wandering about the camp, Cuthbert’s mind raced with ideas of how to escape. At the end of the day, he figured his only hope would be to escape on the road. He did not know what Fort Stenson looked like, but he figured it would be a lot easier to leap out from a wagon into the underbrush than to escape from a walled prison. Likely enough, his cell would be placed high up and then he would need rope were he to escape by whatever window they might have available.
The next day, Cuthbert had a long conversation with his captor.
“I see you captured the fort Earl,” Cuthbert said.
“Yes, the walls were so weak that our cannon easily hammered a breach into it. Before the assault however, one of our shrapnel shells fell in the magazine and blew it up. The governor still was going to hold the place, but the soldiers overruled him and he was forced to surrender being allowed to retreat with all honors and not to serve again for a year.
“What made you charge us when you knew you would be captured?”
“I had no other choice. Your army formation was too big for me to get around its flank, what could I have done?”
“You could have run back to the city my friend.”
“And let your cavalry rush in after me to capture the city?” Cuthbert asked hotly. “Did you think I would so dishonor myself?”
“No, no,” the Earl said smiling at Cuthbert’s temper. “All I meant was, oh never mind.”
“Why are you packing your camp so hurriedly?” Cuthbert asked.
“For two reasons. First, your general is approaching from behind us, and a division, led by Major General Rucifer is coming to join your general. If I turn to face your general, Rucifer will catch me in my back. If I face Rucifer, Hand will catch me on my back.
“The second reason I am leaving is this. My King wants me to conquer your country. I’m retreating back into my country to be joined by Marshal Frone who is coming with an Army Group of eight hundred thousand five hundred men and one hundred twenty-pounders, fifty-thirty-pounders, two hundred fifteen-pounders, two fifty-pounders, and numerous other cannon all making five hundred pieces of cannon.”
Cuthbert was astonished at the figures.
“Amazing?” The Earl asked. “Well, this expedition has been kept a secret so well that your general only received the news this morning. So it is his object to oppose me before I join Marshal Frone and hand over the command to him.
“But, unfortunately for Hand, we will be force marching and will reach Frone before he can take up a position sufficiently strong to defend himself against our assaults.”
The conversation terminated at a bugle call and getting up, the Earl mounted his steed; a noble beast of a deep chestnut with trappings of gold and silver. A stable boy then led up Cuthbert’s own horse, Starlight, and mounting it, he rode off; side by side with the Earl.
Cuthbert now had a change of plans. He could not withdraw his parole from one who had been so kind to him, so he made up his mind that if he escaped, it would be from Fort Stenson.
A week later, they arrived at Fort Stenson, and here, Cuthbert and the Earl parted.
“Farewell my knight errant,” the Earl said, then lowering his tone continued. “And I hope to see you in the field again.”
The governor of Fort Stenson was a sour-tempered man, and without even asking Cuthbert for his parole had him thrown in a tower-cell.
When his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, Cuthbert looked around at his cell in dismay. The only he was at the top of the tower and the only light that came in came from small holes overshadowed by the roof. Not a window was to be seen. The door was solid oak studded with iron and there was an iron grating in the small hole cut into it. The walls and floor were cold, hard stone and there was a pile of musty hay piled in the corner. Of the fewest furnishings there was none and Cuthbert saw escape as hopeless.
******End of Chapter 4******
Hope you enjoyed! 🙂
Disce Ferenda Pati – Learn to endure what must be borne