The Adventures of Cuthbert Armistice: Chapter 3

Sorry for the late post, but I got really caught up in Physics homework, and didn’t get a chance to edit and post. Anyway, here it is. In this part, Cuthbert gets promoted twice. Quite a feat if you ask me. This is also a shorter chapter, but the next one is quite long I assure you. Also, Chapter 1 is going down next week, so if you haven’t read it yet, get reading. 🙂

The next day, camp was immediately struck and all but Cuthbert wondered where they could be going.

They soon got their answer when a few days later, they stopped just in front of a marsh. Right behind it lay the King of Prede’s encampment. Actually, this was headed by the Earl of Danshire, a famous lord renowned for his military prowess.

“Well the Earl really did it this time,” General Hand remarked to Cuthbert as they entered his tent. “I have no other person to spare so I have to trust this mission to you; the reconnoitering of the earl’s position.”

“Very good sir.”

With that, Cuthbert left the tent, and returned to his own to suit up. He was ready in fifteen minutes and galloped off on his horse after a hasty repast.

He stopped at the edge of the marsh and dismounting, prepared to cross it. He walked slowly, and carefully, choosing his steps well and always testing each tuft of grass before putting his weight on it.

It was cautious work and took him almost half an hour to get across.

He landed in front of a forest and entered it. Cutting through its corner he came out on the outskirts of the enemy camp.

After surveying the entire scene from a hillock, Cuthbert jumped down and went back as fast as possible to give his report.

Suddenly, he heard a loud sniffing. There was only one thing it could mean, and Cuthbert hastily put spurs to his horse. He arrived at the edge of the marsh again and proceeded to dismount. By now, the bow wowing of a hound was echoing throughout the enemy camp.

Cuthbert paused to look back and saw several men coming out of their tents. They scanned the marsh casually and, upon catching sight of Cuthbert, rushed at him wildly. Cuthbert hurried to get his foot out of the stirrup but it was stuck. As they came nearer, he drew his two pistols and fired.

One fell dead but the other, though he was hit, continued running and upon reaching Cuthbert, drew his knife and stabbed the horse repeatedly in the flank. The Arabian sank to his knees in pain. Then the man turned to Cuthbert and, before Cuthbert could do anything to defend himself, succeeded in planting his knife in Cuthbert’s shoulder. Then he fell dead.

By now, more men were coming and these were armed with muskets, pistols, and sabers. Cuthbert got his leg out of the stirrup and fired two wild shots into the enemy before he leaped onto a tussock of grass and started to cross.

Three of the enemies followed him. It was a race across the marsh and, as Cuthbert was losing blood fast, he turned around wearily to face his new enemies. He had left his pistols behind so he drew his saber and planted himself firmly on a particularly large tussock of grass.

One of Danshire’s men had outdistanced the other two and he leapt upon Cuthbert with a fearful cry hoping to knock him into marsh. Their sabers clashed and, while the man was still in the air, Cuthbert shoved, and sent him flying backwards into the marsh.

The second man was now close enough for him to be engaged and Cuthbert started out with a quick feint then a cutting stroke at his opponent’s side. The man parried it and the battle continued.

They circled each other, sabers in a defensive position, eyes locked and staring. Then, there was a pistol shot and Cuthbert felt a sharp pain in his chest. He looked towards his opponent and found that he had drawn his pistol.

Enraged, Cuthbert attacked in a viscous cut and severed his enemy’s head. Cuthbert then flung himself upon his other aggressor with so much force that he fell backwards into the marsh and sank out of sight without a word.

Panting, Cuthbert surveyed the scene then turned to finish crossing the marsh. He arrived on the other side his face drawn and pale. His hands were shaking and he could scarcely put one foot in front of the other.

He fell into the hands of Peter who had just come up to greet him.

“Tell General Hand that I have returned.”

Peter did not immediately do as he was told. Instead, he summoned the surgeon to have a look at Cuthbert’s wounds.

The surgeon first cut open the shoulder of his shirt to get a look at the knife stab. He then washed it and bound it tight with a bandage to stop the blood from flowing again.

When he saw Cuthbert’s chest wound however, he shook his head. The bullet had glanced of a rib and broken another two. He first carefully aligned the bones, then he taped his chest and together, both he and Peter carried Cuthbert into his tent.

The next morning, when Cuthbert awoke, he found the General standing next to his bed.

“How are you?” He asked smiling.

“I’m fine,” Cuthbert replied weakly.

“The services you have already rendered us are prodigious if it was not for your age, we would have promoted you long ago. But this last service cannot be ignored. You are now Lieutenant Armistice. No, no, there is no need to thank me for it. Promotion has been long overdue for the services you have rendered the army and I’m sure nobody shall object this one.

But,” the General said, turning the course of the conversation. “The doctor says you must stay in bed for a month so it is necessary I receive your report.”

“The earl has chosen his position well. His right is guarded by a morass while his center is shielded by a hill. His men are massed mainly on the left, as it appears that he believes that his right and center are impregnable.”

“You show the makings of a good general Cuthbert, I congratulate you.”

Cuthbert took no part in the battle the next day but he was a spectator, having chosen to be propped up by pillows on the hillside.

The General started by faking an attack on the right. He placed about twenty guns on the right side of the earl and sent two hundred men with it to pretend to cross. He continued reinforcing that side and soon, the earl was forced to draw reinforcements from his left side.

This is what General Hand had been waiting for, he charged off to his right followed by one thousand hussars, ten thousand musketeers, of whom three thousand were veterans, and six hundred guns.

The guns were set in the back with the hussars, while the musketeers fired a volley then fixed bayonet and charged. The impetuous of the charge was irresistible and the left was crushed by it.

Now they were up against the center and those in front charged while those behind loaded and fired. Just then, the General received the astonishing news that the men on the enemy’s right had succeeded in crossing and were hotly engaged in combat. He could only spare five hundred of his musketeers for he was hotly pressed and continual reinforcements were sent from the enemy’s right.

Cuthbert, propped on the hill as he was, could also see the situation and immediately ordered the commander to send down the remaining three thousand men to go and assist their comrades. At first the commander was hesitant, but when Cuthbert said he would take the entire blame. He finally agreed and soon three thousand men trooped across the marsh and charged in upon the enemies.

The enemies were utterly shocked and dismayed by this sudden appearance. The right was just in front of their camp and they ran off leaving the three thousand to collect what munitions of war and magazines that the enemy left behind.

The general was now hotly pressed by the center of the enemies and Cuthbert gave another command to the commander.

“Tell the men in the enemy camp to find whatever horses they can and mount them fixing on their bayonets as they do so. Their muskets must also be loaded. But tell them to do so for a thousand of their men. Not more. Then they are to fire a volley into the center’s rear and the men on the horses are to charge. The remaining two thousand on the ground should repeatedly fire volleys into the enemies to reinforce their friends.

Do you understand what I have just said?” The commander nodded. “Well then, go and do it!”

The commander rushed off, and Cuthbert soon had the satisfaction of seeing his orders carried out. The charge was successful and the General, seeing that help had come from somewhere, charged also.

He cut right through the enemy center trapping many against the hill as he did so. These he all captured then he sent his hussars to pursue the fleeing enemies. They brought back with them fully three thousand prisoners.

The enemies had started out with thirty thousand men and one thousand two hundred guns whereas General Hand had only fourteen thousand two hundred men and some six hundred and twenty guns, an army nearly half the enemy’s size.

The Earl had lost twenty five thousand men of which fourteen thousand were prisoners and he had lost all of his cannons. Hand however, had but lost seven hundred men of which four hundred were prisoners. He had not lost any cannons and the capture of the enemy’s cannons was very fortunate for they were much more powerful than his own.

When General Hand returned to the camp and learnt from his commander what had happened, he went up to Cuthbert and congratulated him.

“You have shown a lot of quick wit and cunning Cuthbert. This is the second time you have saved the entire army. From now on, you are Captain Armistice. Your company will be given to you at the first gap which I doubt not will be made before long.”

“But sir,” Cuthbert protested. “Surely I don’t deserve such a promotion, I should get punished instead. I commanded men whom I had no right to command. All I did was do what I saw needed to be done. Surely that is not something worthy of promotion.”

“It is when what you have done has saved thousands of lives. Now I will let you rest.”

The next day, Cuthbert’s promotion was the talk of the camp. Peter entered his tent later on during the day.

“So, you have advanced another step higher than me. Now don’t you think I feel any jealousy because I don’t. I’m glad for you; really glad. It really takes cunning and wit to get promoted so fast in the General’s army; especially when the person is so young.”

“I think it’s utter nonsense. All I did was to tell the commander to reinforce the men on the other side of the stream as they were going to get killed. Anybody would have done that.”

“But you did it you see, that is why you got promoted instead of anybody else.”

The next day, Cuthbert was better and declared he could go but the surgeon kept him in bed. A fortnight later, he had a fever and was prostrated for another month. At the end of the month, he was declared convalescent and a week later was fully healed. He then went to assist the General in the siege of Counterferry, an extremely strong fortress.

The Adventures of Cuthbert Armistice: Chapter 2

Here’s the second chapter. In this one, Cuthbert proves his recklessness in a series of daring escapades. I’m also getting ready to post the second chapter of Galactic Battles tomorrow, so stay tuned.

The next day, at the breakfast fire, everybody begged Harold to tell them about the time he got captured by the natives.

“Well, it’s a long story so I’ll condense it. But, we may as well start now.

“It was noontide and I was walking through the forest with my hound. We were stalking a deer that we had come upon in the morn.

“I was just about to give up when I heard the rustling of bushes ahead. Now, you can’t blame me. It wasn’t wartime and I wasn’t expecting anything other than that hart royal I had been tracking the entire day. But when I rounded a corner, a dozen of them harebrained natives leaped out at me, and, afore I could do anything, one of them knocked me on the head with that bludgeon of his.

“When I came to, I was in a tiny hut and trussed up like a pig ready for the roast, thank God these men were not cannibals. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see a hand in front of my face. However, as my ears got accustomed to the silence I could hear dancing and laughing outside.

“For days, the only sound I heard was the pit patter of mice running around in the hut. Every day, I was given some of that black bread with a hunk of cheese two times a day. Well, I’ll admit it wasn’t that bad but I was sick of captivity. The floor was damp, and it got soaked when there was rain. I could barely move, and my muscles ached fit to kill.

“After a week of such imprisonment, I was blindfolded and thrown onto the back of a horse. I was already aching all over and this just made it worse. For the rest of the day, I remained in that same position on that same horse and not once did we stop. I have to give those natives something for their endurance. The heat was sweltering, and even though I did no moving, I was drenched in sweat.

“When it became night, the natives apparently lost all caution. The trail was hard enough to pass in the day, so who would think of trying to go at night. Still, if they untied me, I decided that I would try to escape just the same. Of course, this was a foolish decision, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

“After bivouacking, the guard, who was more humane than his friends, decided to untie me so I could at least get some rest. But, he kept a rope tied from my wrist, to his ankle.

“This, of course, presented no sort of difficulty at all. I just unsheathed the knife of my captor, when he had fallen into a drunken stupor, and cut the rope. Then I walked around the camp as silently as one of the natives looking for my gun and powder horn, which was attached to my bullets. I soon found these by the chief and seriously considered burying the knife I had in my hand into his heart, but my conscience was dead set against it so I just left as silently as ever.

“Well, thanks to the grace of God, I found the trail, and my hound found me. He took the lead, and showed me the way back home. Never again did I try to go into those woods alone. That’s the shortened version of it.”

Just then, the gong for the assembly sounded and everybody rushed off to their various duties.

Cuthbert rushed back to his tent and saddled Starlight after feeding her some oats. Then, he strapped his saber on and put the brace of pistols on his saddle and rode to join his regiment.

“Didn’t you have any trouble with the horses?” Peter asked when Cuthbert came riding up.

“No, I didn’t, why should I?” Cuthbert replied, mystified.

Peter just shook his head as they rode off.

Their rendezvous was in front of a small forest with a road leading through it, and Cuthbert’s regiment was the first to arrive.

“Looks like the infantry are going to get all the fun again.” Harold grumbled.

The scene for the battle was as follows:

The road ran straight through the forest, but halfway down, it was barred by trees that had been fallen and piled up to make a breastwork. Behind that breastwork were about fifty natives. They were milling around, and as the wind was blowing towards Cuthbert’s regiment, they could faintly hear murmurs as the natives shouted defiance.

“Why should our general be so afraid?” Cuthbert asked. “Surely he cannot suppose that fifty natives armed with primitive weapons can do a lot of damage?”

“But some of them might not be armed with primitive weapons.” Harold replied, “they may be armed with muskets and carbines or sabers that they have captured. And besides, you don’t know what is hidden in the woods. Besides that, they have a terrain advantage, and their style of combat is better suited to this sort of work.”

Just then, the General gave the order for the infantry to advance. They did this with caution and at a distance of a hundred yards from the enemy, they began to fire. Suddenly, bow shots and musket shots rang out from inside the forest and some of the infantry fell pierced with arrows or bullets.

Despite these difficulties, the men kept advancing. Then at a distance of fifty yards, the men behind the breastwork started using their slings to shoot leaden balls. They fired with deadly accuracy and for each release; one of the infantry fell dead or severely wounded.

Still, the infantry continued, their numbers weakening, until they were right up against the breastwork. Then they began scrambling over the breastwork while others pushed against it. It soon toppled over with a crash, but then, twenty-five of the natives rushed forward upon the confused mass and, drawing their sabers or swinging their clubs, divided the infantry. The remaining natives kept up a steady fire into the infantry’s ranks.

Without thinking, Cuthbert put spurs to his horse and charged. A few of the lesser nobles and some of the younger ones followed leaving a startled group behind. Cuthbert’s horse was the best, and he soon outdistanced his friends. There he plunged into the midst of the enemies after firing all his pistols into them.

Inside he hacked and hewed at the natives until they grew afraid, for Starfire was well trained, and did as much execution with her hooves as he managed with his saber. Then, when the rest of his friends arrived, the natives fled in all directions, pursued by the cavalry, who soon lost them as they ran into the woods.

The infantry commander immediately began profusely thanking Cuthbert. He stopped in the middle of his thanks however, as the General rode up and said sternly.

“You should not have charged without orders. You may have saved the infantry, which I am glad off, but charging without orders is a serious offense. Not only that, but if it had been done in another situation, it could have severely damaged the strategy.”

“I am very sorry sir; I just could not help seeing my friends all getting killed without assisting them in some way sir.”

By this time, the camp supplies arrived and for another hour or so, tents were erected, and not a word was spoken. Then when all was set, a messenger came to Cuthbert saying that the General wished to see him inside his tent.

“As if scolding you publicly was not enough.” Peter grumbled as Cuthbert left. “Now he is going to scold you privately.”

Cuthbert did not reply but he sincerely hoped that this was not so. After all, he was newly, and as he had already told the General, he just could not bear to see his friends falling victims to the natives’ slings.

Upon entering the General’s tent, Cuthbert began by saying.

“I am really very sorry for what I did sir.”

“Come, come, I am not really angry at you. You actually saved the whole of the infantry. It’s just that if I do not show a firm hold on your actions before the soldiers, they may try to do what you did and thus bring utter calamity on this campaign. You see what I mean do you not?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, now never do such an action again. As a way to make up for yourself, I have decided to send you on a reconnaissance mission. It will not be without danger for the natives lurk everywhere. However, we need to know where is the next safest and best camping spot. Do you think you can complete this mission in five days?”

“Yes sir, I will do my best.”

“Then go, and take whatever you deem necessary.”

Then Cuthbert, taking leave of the General, proceeded to go outside.

Inside the tent, the General whispered to his aide. “There is talent in that boy. I want you to keep a close eye on him.”

Outside, Cuthbert prepared his blanket roll, a brace of pistols, ammunition, his cuirass and helmet, his knives, and finally his saber. His cuirass, helmet and blanket roll went on Starlight with some food. He was going to use her as a pack horse. The rest of his gear went either on Rage Fire, or himself.

Then, without telling his friends where he was going or what he was doing, Cuthbert rode off.

He rode for a few days without any sign of a good camping spot. Occasionally he saw a native who hurried out of sight upon realizing that he had been noticed. But other than that, there was no cause for any excitement.

On the third day, he came across the perfect spot. It was a valley only approachable from the place in which he was now entering. In it was the head of a spring. This was excellent because that would mean that there would now be no need to venture far out of the camp to collect water.

After checking his bearings to make sure he could find the place again, he trotted off casually. He could now go faster, for he no longer had to look around for camps. This being the case, he covered the distance at two times the rate he had gone before.

At around noontide, six natives suddenly leaped out from the undergrowth. Cuthbert drew his pistols and fired blindly. Then he charged through them, but he did not bother to look back at how many natives had fallen. He knew it would be a useless exercise, and would remove the advantage he had gained in surprising them. A little ways further along the road, he eased the horses and reloaded his pistols. This precaution taken, he rode straight back to camp.

He arrived at the camp without further accidents and went to General Hand’s tent to report. Upon hearing of the camping spot Cuthbert had found, the General praised him greatly for his clever thinking and wise choosing. Cuthbert replied simply that he had been following the General’s advice and some of his own.

They struck camp the next day and after struggling through morasses and thick woods for five days, finally came across the camping spot that Cuthbert had found. But there was something wrong, something very wrong. Smoke was rising from inside the valley.

“The natives must have followed you and taken it,” General Hand said with a half smile.

“I will retake it,” Cuthbert replied in a passion. “No, and if that’s not enough I shall retake it by myself.”

“No! I forbid you to. That would just be throwing your life away.”

“But still sir, I shall.”

With that, Cuthbert wheeled his horse and rode back into the camp.

“What are you doing Cuthbert?” Peter, who had just rode up asked.

“I’m going to take back the camp from those ungrateful beasts,” Cuthbert growled, for he was still greatly upset that he had let the natives track him so easily.

“That would do you no good Cuthbert,” Peter said quietly. “And I wouldn’t want to see you killed.”

Cuthbert was silent for a minute, then he said, almost wearily. “I suppose you are right as usual Peter. I hate it when you are right.”

That night however, when Cuthbert had made sure the camp was asleep, he entered his tent and took two braces of pistols and his saber along with two knives. Then, under the cover of darkness, he advanced up one of the hills that made the camping spot he had so cleverly chosen.

When he arrived at the top, he found as he expected, a native propped up on a rock. Cuthbert crept round to the front of him, still camouflaged by the tall grass, and with a quick motion threw his knife. The native fell without a sound and Cuthbert drew his knife out of the native and wiped it on the corpse.

Planting himself firmly behind a boulder, Cuthbert gave a cry and pushed the boulder of the hill. Then he ran around to another spot and pushed down a couple more boulders. They started slow at first but sped up as they gained momentum and were met by cries of anger and fright at the bottom.

Then in the midst of all the confusion, Cuthbert fired two shots into the mass of men who gathered. Another two shots from his remaining pistols sufficed and all the natives ran helter-skelter out of the camp, probably thinking that some demon had possessed the valley.

After making sure that the natives would not come back, Cuthbert left the hill and returned to the camp.

He headed to the General’s tent and was about to be chased away by the guards, when the General himself came to the door.

“What is it Cuthbert?”

“I have retaken the camp, sir,” Cuthbert said, giving a smart salute.

“What?” The General asked, frowning. “Come into the tent now and give me your story.”

“Well I never,” the General exclaimed when he heard of how Cuthbert had disposed of the natives. “You are the most stubborn harebrained boy I have ever seen. If you don’t start following orders soon, I– I don’t know what I will do, but I don’t believe you will enjoy it. We will move in tomorrow.”

Such was the case, and, by midday the next day, the camp was set with outposts placed at the mouth of the valley and the crests of the hills. Then the General held a council of war with his captains and commanders. He had also invited Cuthbert who was delighted at the offer.

The General had taken him aside before the meeting saying, “I see promise in you Cuthbert, I would deem it wise if you came with me to this meeting and learned how we plan out our strategies. But, make sure you keep quiet.”

After Cuthbert had left, General Hand’s aide stepped forward. “You take great liberties with this– boy, sir.”

“Yes, Paul, and I have my reasons. Come, to the meeting.”

After laying out the map on the floor, General Hand began the conversation.

“We must meet them in their forest. They definitely won’t come out to meet us.”

“The trees will break our formations,” one of the commanders pointed out.

“Yes, they will have a high advantage,” another said. “This is a troubling case.”

“It appears to me,” said Cuthbert, the General’s warning completely forgotten. “That if our men, rather than trying to keep a formation–”

“Preposterous,” a Captain interrupted. “Sir, what is this boy doing here?”

“Cuthbert,” the General said sternly. “I warned you. Now get out, while we finish this discussion.”

Cuthbert left the tent greatly mollified, inwardly chastising himself for his lack of prudence.

Five minutes later, a lackey came looking for Cuthbert. “You are wanted in the General’s tent.”

“Me?” Cuthbert asked in surprise. “Why?”

The man did not answer, but turned and headed in the direction of the General’s tent.

“Cuthbert Armistice sir,” the lackey said, as Cuthbert stepped into the tent.

“I and my Captains have decided to hear your plan,” the General said.

Cuthbert was dumbstruck for a moment, but he quickly found his tongue. “What I was trying to say sir, is that the soldiers should forget entirely about formation and instead tried to hide as much as possible. Then, were they to come upon some of the natives. We could scare them with fire from all sides. But I doubt the natives will stay in the forest.”

“Why do you believe that?” One of the captains asked.

“Because, upon seeing what looks like our entire or most of our force leaving the camp, they’ll probably carry fire and sword through it sir.”

“Well then, what do you propose?”

“If you can leave behind under my command thirty men, I will defend the camp at all costs.” Cuthbert said confidently.

A silence fell over the room as everybody looked to the General to see what he would do. For a while, no sound escaped his lips. Then he said solemnly.

“You are young for such a task. And you have barely proved yourself capable of following orders. Also, I highly doubt that you could command thirty men. What do you think qualifies you for this task, instead of one of my Captains?”

Cuthbert replied without losing a beat, “Well sir, you will need all your Captains to help you command your men. Also, I was the one who thought up this plan, and explored the camp, so I know how to strategically defend it. With all due respect, but has any of your men completely examined the camp site?”

“Insolence!” One of the men sitting down said, standing up violently.

“Calm down, the boy has a point.” General Hand said. He paused for a moment, stroking his chin, and examining Cuthbert slowly.

“I have decided,” he said at last. “Go, and thirty of my men will be assigned to you. And may God protect you from all harm.”

Cuthbert was overjoyed at hearing this, and left eagerly, to meet the thirty men whom the General said would be best suited to this.

An hour later, the General left with the rest of the men.

Cuthbert had been assigned fifteen of the infantry and fifteen of the cavalry. This ensured that he would have not only men for defense, but men for offense as well; should he have a chance to do so. He placed five of the infantry on either crest of the hill and placed the remaining five in the mouth of the valley. Then he sent five of the cavalry into the woods in front of them.

In the middle of the night, a bugle horn suddenly rang out. Cuthbert leaped to his feet and ran lightly up the hill to his left. There, he found his men engaged in a fierce fight with the natives. Firing his pistols into the mass of men, Cuthbert placed himself beside one of his own infantry and drew his saber.

After fighting for awhile, Cuthbert ordered the man beside him to fetch one man from the group at the top of the other hill and one man from the group in the mouth of the valley. The man soon came rushing back with these and thinking that it was sufficient to repel the small attacking party, Cuthbert returned to camp.

Just then, a bugle horn rang out from the party in the mouth of the valley. Cuthbert blew on his horn and dismounted three of his cavalry to join the fray with him.

After a period of ten minutes, a cry of dismay rose from the natives in they fought as the cavalry Cuthbert had placed in the forest caught them in their rear flank after receiving the signal from the horn.

They met in conflict for fully thirty minutes. During that period of time, Cuthbert divided the party on the hill’s remaining men in between the two parties engaged in the conflict. Finally the natives began to be pushed back step by step and then, after a particularly fierce rush, the natives all fled.

“Cavalry mount!” Cuthbert shouted. “Don’t waste any time. The already mounted cavalry, follow me and don’t split.”

After saying this, Cuthbert then leapt lightly onto his horse and galloped off at full speed. He soon came across the weary natives and after making sure that all their pistols were loaded, they fired at the enemies then charged into the midst of them.

The natives, disheartened as they were from their failure to take the camp, offered feeble resistance before giving their leader up on the promise that they would be permitted to return to their homes.

Then, securing the chief well on his horse, and making sure the chief was fully disarmed, Cuthbert and his men rode back to camp.

The next day, Cuthbert sent off a messenger with the news of what he had accomplished. The General sent him back a message that he was delighted, but that there were still small groups led by the Chief’s son who were refusing to surrender, and that they would need his help.

Cuthbert willingly agreed to rejoin his regiment and so off they went.

After they arrived, they soon realized what the General had meant. They were menaced every single day by darts and arrows, now and then, a leaden ball from a sling would fly out. Many men were wounded this way and some were even killed.

Soon, the army became bedraggled and did not bother to keep its formation any more.

This continued for many days until one dark and dreary day, the leading column was halted by a band of natives jumping out from in front of them. Cuthbert had been placed in the rear of the army and when the man next to him suddenly fell, he whirled around only to find a mass of natives swarming down on him.

Desperately, he drew his saber and defended himself valiantly. The men all around him were falling as they had not expected an attack from the rear. But many on the opposing side fell under the keen edge of Cuthbert’s saber as he cut his way back to the men in front.

By now, the General realized what was happening and what would happen if he didn’t do something. Leaving the men in front to stop the natives from breaking in, the General struggled to regroup the disordered men, but his efforts were of no avail.

Cuthbert saw with his own eye what was happening and began to look wildly around. Then his eye caught sight of a richly colored tassel which he immediately cut his way to.

He soon arrived in front of the Prince who was leisurely giving orders. Then upon catching sight of Cuthbert’s uniform, ordered that he should be captured. But none moved, for they already knew the prowess of this great assailant.

Muttering something under his breath, the Prince snatched up a saber from a fallen man, and threw himself in front of Cuthbert. For a moment, both stood motionless. Then the Prince started the conflict with a quick feint. Cuthbert leaped aside from the Prince’s follow up stroke and before the Prince could do anything, forced him to the ground with his knee.

Now that the Prince was in his power, Cuthbert finally spoke. “Tell your men to stop fighting.”

The Prince hurriedly did this, with a little encouragement from Cuthbert’s knife. Then Cuthbert spoke again.

“You will give five of your principal men for hostages to make sure your own men never fight again.”

This was soon done and then Cuthbert released the Prince, who left sullenly followed by the rest of his followers.

“Well Cuthbert,” the General said warmly. “You have performed an unpardonable service. But now is not the time for rewarding, even though you have saved the entire army. You shall now carry a report to the King tomorrow. I will write it tonight. The mission will not be without danger for there are many small bands and though they will never come together again under a leader, many would gladly slit your throat for the lightest praise from that Prince you saw today.”

“Thank you, sir,” Cuthbert replied.

The next day, Cuthbert was galloping across the countryside. He had the dispatch in his saddlebag and was riding Starlight as fast as she would go. Just that day he had received the news that the King would be leaving in four days so he only had three days to get back to the palace.

Eventually, Cuthbert slowed Starlight down into a jog-trot. He figured that both of them would get a lot of rest this way and that it was better than spending all their energy galloping for two hours then having to walk the rest of the way.

Suddenly from the bushes behind him emerged five natives and ten emerged from the bushes in front. They all had drawn bows. “You follow,” one of them said.

The natives, fully confident that they had Cuthbert in their power did not notice both of his hands sliding towards his weapons. And before they knew it, Cuthbert had fired his pistol backwards into the natives behind him and had cut a way through the natives in front of him and was galloping off into the distance. They turned, and a few of them managed to fire off a few hurried shots. An arrow whistled by Cuthbert’s ear, but the others were wide off the mark.

The next day, the path led him into a deep wood with a small creek flowing through it. He forded the creek easily but his thoughts could not fathom what would happen if the creek flooded.

He was out of the wood at sunset and realizing he still had a long way to go, spurred his horse into a gallop. Starlight, already well rested fairly flew off, and they crossed the outskirts of his homeland just as the sun disappeared behind the hills.

After making sure his horse was well put up for the night, Cuthbert entered an inn and ordered a room. The innkeeper replied that he was full but that there was plenty of hay in the stables. Grumbling that he should be forced to sleep in the stables, Cuthbert exited the inn.

After lying down in the hay for awhile, a thought struck him but he dismissed it as nothing. In the morning, sure enough, there was Starlight standing there quietly munching on some hay. Without asking for breakfast, Cuthbert leaped onto his horse and rode off.

After three hours hard riding over dusty roads, Cuthbert finally skidded to a stop just as the King with his Queen exited. They were followed by their three young daughters, all of whom were closely veiled; Cuthbert hardly gave them a glance.

Riding up to the elderly King he said proudly.

“These are the dispatches from my master, General Hand sir.”

As the King read the dispatches, everybody watched him anxiously. But at the termination of the dispatch, the King said laughingly.

“Well, it looks like soon I’ll have another knight errant to reward eh? You tell that General of yours that I’m pleased with his progress against the natives and that he needn’t bother about them anymore.

“The King of Prede has long been preparing for war and now it has broken out. I want General Hand to return and gather as many men as he can, then drive the King of Prede back across his border and into his own land. And tell your general to capture some of the King of Prede’s fortresses if possible.”

Cuthbert saluted the King and wheeling his horse about galloped back across the villages and towns.

On the second day of his journey, he again found himself in the deep wood. He had been struggling through ferns and bushes for two hours when he suddenly realized that his horse’s hoofs were hitting water. Looking down, he realized the ground was soggy, and not only that, but there was a strong current ahead getting stronger as they went further.

His horse was knee deep in water when he finally paused beside a vine covered tree. Using his saber, he slashed off a long, thin, but strong length of the vine and roped it to the tree. Then tying his improvised ‘rope’ around his waist, he proceeded to swim across the fast flowing rapids.

He was quickly pushed down stream but every now and then, a boulder or log that penetrated the surface of the water helped him to get back in his course, but when he landed, he was about three miles downstream. Wondering how in the world he got so far down, he turned to check his rope and found that it had been severed.

Knowing that it would be impossible for him to make the trip again, he left his horse unwillingly. She had been the first gift he had ever received from the General and he was loath to part with it. But he had no other choice. He just had to get to the General with the king’s orders.

The stream had changed the surrounding land into quagmire and Cuthbert found it challenging to cross it without soiling his cuirass and helmet. Finally, he was past all difficulties and strode quickly out of the forest. Fording the stream had cost him a day and his horse, so he threw himself on the hard earth immediately after exiting the forest.

When he woke up the next day, he found himself tightly trussed up so that he could hardly move. He was surrounded by dark faces and, when his vision cleared, he realized that he was a prisoner of the natives. Then a dark figure loomed over him and he recognized the Prince whom he had so defeated the other day.

“You awake,” the Prince said haughtily. “You sleep too long. We find you sleeping, take you capture.”

Cuthbert did not say anything. Finally, the Prince ordered that Cuthbert’s bonds be cut and his saber placed in his hand. Cuthbert found that his knife was still in his belt.

“Last time, I no prepare. Today, Sakee prepared, now fight. You win, you go away. I win, you die.”

The Prince had already taken up his scimitar and he held a knife in his hand. Cuthbert ridded himself of cuirass but his helmet already had been taken. Then the fight commenced. Cuthbert was worried, for he knew that winning would probably mean death, and even if he won the battle, he doubted that the natives would keep to their word.

Cuthbert found the Prince more wary than before. Then, all of a sudden, the Prince launched a series of strong attacks against Cuthbert. Cuthbert leaped lightly back out of the range.

In speed and agility, they were equals, but the Prince had superior strength while Cuthbert had more skill. They were about equal in height, but other than that, the rest of the advantage was on Sakee’s side.

But no matter how he tried, Sakee could not get past Cuthbert’s guard. He could not keep up this slow cautious fighting much longer, and soon enough, his patience ran out, and he started striking and parrying rashly. When they drew back for a moment, the Prince realized he had met his match.

He had spent all his skill and was panting heavily while Cuthbert still held his inert yet active figure with a slight smile on his face and, other than breathing slightly heavier than before, Cuthbert was still fresh.

Then the Prince decided upon using his last plan, drawing his knife, from where he had sheathed it, he flung it wildly at Cuthbert but there was a clash of steel and it fell useless to the ground.

Now Cuthbert drew his knife while the Prince prepared himself for whatever was coming. Then, Cuthbert charged with his saber. Steel clashed against steel, then, with a quick wrench of his wrist, Cuthbert sent the Prince’s scimitar went flying into the air.

Just then a shout was raised from the edge of the camp and the Prince muttered something angrily under his breath. Then picking up his scimitar, he rushed to where the shout had come from. There he found his men engaged in a severe fight with General Hand’s infantry.

Seeing that nothing could be done, the Prince waved his men back and they all left shouting and yelling. Cuthbert joined the infantry, and headed them forward while they pursued the natives until night. Then, all prepared camp, and soon a cheery fire was roaring merrily.

“Well, Cuthbert,” Harold said. “You got out of that adventure unscathed. We almost thought you were dead.”

“My slight skill with the saber served me well, and so did my horse.” At this, Cuthbert faltered.

“That reminds me, what happened to Starlight?” Peter asked.

“She – she was left behind at the stream.”

“Well, then, perhaps she got over the stream, for here she comes.” Peter said with a laugh.

Cuthbert got up, and anxiously peered into the darkness. Then he saw a figure, and soon led the dripping Starlight up to the bivouac fire. Several men moved out of their seats for her for she had all won their hearts during the short battle, where Cuthbert had led the miniature charge that saved them.

“How in the world did she get left behind?”

So Cuthbert proceeded to tell them about all his adventures and ended with a:

“And I still can’t figure out why that stream flooded. There was absolutely no rain.”

“From the way you describe that stream,” Harold said thoughtfully. “I figure it’s an old mountain stream I once chanced to come across. I think that there was probably an avalanche up in the mountain and all the snow melted on its way down, thus breaking the river’s banks.”

“Bravo Harold!” One of the men exclaimed while another laughingly said he should be a scholar.

Cuthbert then left, saying that he had urgent news to give to the General. When he returned, the General gave the order to bed down, as they would have a long day ahead of them tomorrow.

Cuthbert gently led Starlight away to where he had stabled his other horse. He then curry combed her gently before bedding down. His last words before he went to bed were.

“I’m glad you got over, Starlight.”

The Adventures of Cuthbert Armistice: Chapter 4

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.”

“Yes sir.”

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! 🙂

~Michael Hollingworth
Disce Ferenda Pati – Learn to endure what must be borne