Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 64

< Chapter 63                                                                                                   Chapter 65 >

David and Martin continue their guerilla raids against King Rat!


My scheme was going well.  Our kitchen raid had left King Rat's people hungry and disorganized.  He'd expected us to hit the armory next and had laid a trap.  We hit their store of oil, instead.  We left piles of burning torches, wrecked lanterns, and barrels of burning oil.  The tunnel rats had crowded into the few rooms left with light, fraying tempers even further.

Meanwhile, our band of rescued slaves had plenty of light and food.  We also had free run more and more of the underground empire.  When we found an exit to the surface, we released all of the former slaves.  It also finally gave us a chance to get rid of Raoul.

"You're sending me away?" Raoul's eyes were wide -- in fear, I guess.

"Yes, Raoul.  I came down here to save you from King Rat."  Martin's eyebrows shot up when I said that.  "Returning you to the light is on the first step.  You won't be safe until I've dealt with the king."

I was proud of myself.  I think my tone was sincere.  At least it wasn't dripping with sarcasm.

Raoul nodded solemnly, "You're a good man, Rice.  I'll see you knighted for your service to me!"

Watching Raoul walk away, Martin murmured, "I never thought I'd feel pity for Raoul."

Nodding, I led the way back into the tunnels.

As we neared the inhabited parts of the tunnel system, we heard voices calling out.  They seemed to all be repeating the same message, but with all the echoes, I couldn't make it out.  It took ten minutes to get close enough to concentrate on a single voice.

"David Rice, His Majesty King Rat orders you to surrender!  If you refuse, the remaining slaves will be fed to His Majesty's new tammar!"

Will our heroes surrender rather than allow innocent people to die?  Find out in Chapter 65, coming Friday!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 63

< Chapter 62                                                                                                   Chapter 64 >
Somehow, the trogs and the desert tribes have found a way to talk to each other!


"Trogs told the tribes about David?" I couldn't wrap my head around that idea.  "How?  The Great One is the only being -- trog or human -- who's ever been able to speak the other's language!"

Tristan spoke with the tribesmen for several minutes.  I hated speaking through translators!  It takes forever and even the best translator can make a mistake.  What I wouldn't have given for one of those implant things David has in his head!

Finally, Tristan turned to me.  "Centuries ago, both the tribes and the trogs were pushed into the desert by the expanding city-states of the south and the kingdoms of the north.  Their battle is against the desert.  Their allies are all who share in the battle.  Callan, these people have been trading with the trogs for centuries.  Over that time, a fairly sophisticated sign language has grown between the trogs and the tribes."

The tribesman who had tried to buy me spoke up.

"What did he say?"

"He apologies for attempting to purchase you."  A wicked grin creased Tristan's face, "Further, he hopes Lady Death will accept the services of their best translator as a token of their respect."

"Lady Death?  You're making that up, Tristan!"

"What else should they call the wife of the Hand of Death?"  There was a phrase which described the grin Tristan gave me.  My mother had assured me it was not something a proper princess would say.

"Could you at least pretend you're not enjoying this so much?"  I asked.  "Accept their generous offer and get this translator on board the Pauline.  We leave in ten minutes."

Tristan swept into a bow.  "As m'Lady commands!"

Ten minutes later, the translator directed us northeast.  We were one step closer to the trogs and to rescuing David! 

Meanwhile, what's been happening back in the tunnels under Beloren?  Find out in Chapter 64, coming Wednesday!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 62

< Chapter 61                                                                                                   Chapter 63 >

Outside of the city of Beloren, Callan continues her search for trogs.


Milo hoisted my flag as we sped past the Mordanian squadron patrolling north of Beloren.

"Will they see it, Your Highness?" Milo asked.

"They better!"  I replied.  "And you can use my name when we're in private, Milo."

"I can't do that when we're flying your flag, Your Highness," Milo grinned.

"Then take it down, wretched child!" I affected my best royal tone.  "The squadron is getting under way."

For the next five hours, Tristan watched for indications of desert tribe camps.  All I saw was desert, but Tristan guided us unerringly to a camp.  The tribesmen didn't like having the squadron hovering overhead.  The squadron commander didn't like the idea of me meeting the tribesmen without a bunch of airmen acting as guards.  At least everyone was equally unhappy.

I stood next to Tristan as he spoke with the tribal leaders.  The leaders gestured wildly as they spoke and Tristan did the same when he replied.  Then an older tribesman gestured toward me.  Tristan responded energetically.  The tribesman gestured to me again.  This went on for a couple of minutes.

"What's the hold up, Tristan?" I finally asked.

"The elder wants to, you.  He's looking for a wife for his youngest son."

"I'm not for sale."  I said that to the tribesman.

"So I've told him.  He keeps raising his offer.  He's up to two horses, a herd of goats, and a tent."

"I'm flattered," I said.  "Tell him I'm married to a great warrior.  Tell them about David's battles with the trogs or something."

Excited chatter broke out among the tribesmen after Tristan finished speaking.

Tristan turned a stunned face to me.  "They've heard of David.  He's known as the Hand of Death."

"Who told the tribes about him?" I asked.

"The trogs did."

Humans and trogs talking to each other?  It's unheard of!  Find out more in Chapter 63, coming Monday!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 61

< Chapter 60                                                                                                   Chapter 62 >

David and Martin make plans to become subterranean raiders!


Along with the implant-aided mental maps of the tunnels, we discovered the schedule the tunnel kingdom ran under.  King Rat had the place running like clockwork, which made planning our raids all the easier.

We stuck with simple military tactics and raided the kitchen first.  It doesn't matter how much people love or fear their leader, if they're hungry the leader is in for some serious control problems.

The kitchen staff's most important job was watching the kitchen slaves and beating the slaves if they didn't work hard enough to suit their masters.  Leaving Raoul to keep watch, Martin and I hit the kitchen dead center between dinner and breakfast.

"Get lost," the kitchen foreman sneered when we entered.  "No food until morning."

When I kept walking toward him, the foreman raised the wooden staff he used to beat the slaves and swung it at me.  I stepped inside the man's swing, caught his wrist and twisted.  As he cried out in pain, I took the staff from the his unresisting hand and broke it over his head.  Holding his head, the foreman dropped, moaning, to the floor.  Martin stepped to my side as the rest of the kitchen staff ordered the slaves to attack.


Adrenaline pouring through our systems, Martin and I brushed aside the half-hearted slave attacks, gently pushing them into a confused jumble.  The kitchen staff got the same treatment as the foreman.  Seconds later, we dropped Boost.

"Gather as much cooked food and fresh water as you can and come with us," I told the slaves.  "You're slaves no longer!"

As the former slaves gathered supplies, Martin and I locked the staff in a cellar, torched the remaining food, then retreated into the darkness.

The fall of King Rat had begun!

Will David's plan draw King Rat out where they can get to him?  And what is happening with Callan's search for trogs?  Find out more in Chapter 62, coming Friday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Scout's Oath - Chapter 60

< Chapter 59                                                                                                   Chapter 61 >

David leads Martin and Raoul off into the dark tunnels of King Rat's doman!


Martin and I would have been hopelessly lost in the dark tunnels without our implants.  Every turn and twist was added to maps recorded by the implants.  We could find our way back to King Rat's court if we had to, but that was all we could do.  For my plan to work at all, we needed to learn the layout of the rest of the occupied areas and any surrounding areas.  In short, we needed to know the tunnels better than the tunnel rats did.

We spent hours skirting the edges of tunnel rat territory, replacing burned out torches with new ones from wall sconces as needed.  The tunnel rats didn't live in as much squalor as I had expected.  There was food storage, a big kitchen, a communal dining area, rooms for sleeping, slave quarters, and even a nursery for the children.  I hadn't expected to find children, but I shouldn't have been surprised.  All human cultures reproduce.

"There are a lot more people down here than I expected," Martin said after we had retreated into unused tunnels.

"Why haven't you gotten me out of here?" Raoul whined.

"Shut up, Raoul," Martin and I said in unison.

"I'd guess close to a thousand people, counting children and slaves," I said.  "Do you think we can count on the slaves to help us?"

"Maybe.  If they haven't given up hope.  But don't build any plans around their support."

"Now that we've got an idea of the layout, it's time for the next step in my plan," I said.

"There's a next step?" Martin asked.

"I came up with it while we were exploring," I said.  "You'll like it."

"Maybe," Martin said.  "That depends on the new addition to the plan."

I grinned.  "We're going to be raiders!"
As Martin Bane returns to his raiding ways, Callan searches for a trog settlement.  Find out what she discovers in Chapter 61, coming Wednesday!