A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

The villagers need to prepare for battle


We must act without wasting any more precious time,” said a lone voice at the meeting convened by the oldsters round a blazing fire as the first autumnal chills set teeth chattering and flesh shivering.

The lone voice belonged to Gymboy. Gymboy was a young man in his prime, he was well respected by the men of the village who respected youthful strength, and adored by the women, even those approaching their dotage in the cooing way elderly women do when they see young muscles. It was even said, on the quiet and with many a glint in a female eye, that he must have the blood of Tomass and maybe even Bodkins running through his veins and into his manhood. And now he was proposing action, but, thought the oldsters with their customary caution, what sort of action?

“We are few and they are armed,” wavered a brave forty year-old who knew full well that his days must surely be surely numbered.

“Then we must become armed also,” replied Gymboy simply. “The alternative is slavery, and worse. Women will be taken and used as toys by men unfit to whisper their names, and we will have to excuse them and, like grapes withering on the vine, sink into a mental morass that’s all the worse for being cowardice!”

“We’re not cowards,” wavered the same voice, “no man will call me a coward and live!”

“Then, if that’s the case, we must arm ourselves,” said Gymboy firmly, “I know how it’s been here in our village. For countless years we have lived in peace and spoken of blood-lines until their very fluid in our veins has been diluted by too many proud words! But we have been warned. The one-armed fiend has been amidst us and he has taken one of our number and rattled her bones until she is with child!”

“I am,” put in Sharra, “it is weeks since he took me and I can feel, even now, the b*****d forming in my belly! And he said they would return. They would come and build and live here, and we will be driven out. He said that as he ravaged me, did the one-armed savage, even as he plunged himself into me and grinned his lop-sided grin into my face. They will come and we will die. Each and every one of us. Gymboy is right. We must prepare for war and death!”

Gymboy stood on a pile of rough-cut logs and held both hands in the air. “The time will be soon,” he said. “I have calculated that the one-armed vagabond will return any day now. His journey to his king will have taken him two, maybe three, weeks, and he will have gathered an army together, maybe a hundred men, all armed with spears, axes and whatever else they can lay their wretched hands on. Then they will come this way, shouting to the skies and the gods of a victory they believe they will have, and one they must be denied. I have a plan.”

That’s better, thought the oldsters, a plan is better than no plan at all! If he has a plan we are saved and will live on into wonderful old age with our grand-kids at our sides and our women dancing on flowers in the springtimes of the year!

But a plan needs strength and arms,”, continued Gymboy, reading the minds of the oldsters whose only dreams were of peace and harmony and their loving families. “And,” he added, eyeing them slowly one by one, “and we must be armed and cunning and ready to die for our cause!”

This is not so good, thought the oldsters, but they clapped anyway: the youth needed encouragement and they would give it, albeit reluctantly.

Even the womenfolk must have a part to play, or there will be no final victory,” warned Gymboy, and he smiled in the direction of a group of them, huddled by the fire and thrusting their breasts towards him. Then he addressed them directly: “there will be time for play in the days to come, but first we must arm ourselves!” he declared. “I took careful note of the ragamuffin army that the one-armed devil had at his back, and they were armed simply with spears. They didn’t even appear to have a shield between them, as if they were simpletons from the dark ages before Tomass breathed on this Earth. But even spears can take lives if we are not cautious. We must have better than them, and take advantage of everything we have that they don’t.”

Like what?” sneered an oldster, who knew he was ready to die and therefore had no interest in future wars.

Like arrows tipped with sharpened bronze or well-knapped flint, and mighty bows from which to fire them!” declaimed Gymboy. Then he turned to the swelling Sharra. who was eyeing him as though he might be a god from the skies beyond the clouds of Earth, and said, more quietly, “sweet maiden, hand me the weapon!”

Sharra stood up and smiled at him. Then she produced a hand-crafted bow that she had been concealing behind her, and handed the weapon to the young Gymboy, followed by a flimsy quiver of feather-flighted arrows.

He held both items high in the air and surveyed his audience.

This weapon will kill at twice the distance and more than will a carelessly hurled spear,” he declared, “and there is no defence against it save for a shield, and that is not much defence at all if the arrows are shot from behind the villain. And we must not be lily-livered and believe that firing at a deadly foe from his rear is ignoble, for he would do it to us. He, after all, took the lovely and beautiful and honest Sharra, and put her with child with brute force and against her will.”

There was a rumbled of anger as he spoke those words. He knew how to win folks round! Did not the blood of Tomass still course through his veins?

But that is but one weapon,” mumbled an oldster.

I know you, Kevvy,” proclaimed Gymboy, “for you were once the bravest and best hunter of our village! And the best father of kidlings! Did not your late woman produce two sets of twins, so mighty is your seed? What has got into you, that you see difficulties where no difficulties lie? This very bow, the one I’m holding, was crafted this very day by Sharra here, and its string woven by her, without help from anyone save for a description of what it must be, and these arrows, in this quiver, as many as will fit in, were also crafted by her, though I did provide the metal tips, forged then sharpened this morning by me. Any man or woman could make one, with care, and armed with these we can be a match for any foe, be he of one or two arms.”

Then he will be harmless!” cackled an oldster.

Or lifeless,” growled Gymboy. “Now what is it to be? Do we arm ourselves with bows as well as the hunting knives we surely all have in out homes, and when the enemy comes a-calling, do we destroy him, to the man?”

The women chorused we do, but the men, some of them at least, were slow to respond.

Is it to be that the women do our fighting for us?” asked Gymboy sarcastically, and then the men who had been slow to respond called out in favour, and the blood of Tomass ran hotly in their veins as they dispersed, each to his own home with his own woman.

War was in the air, and the promise of battle with a hoped-for victory.

And far away a King sat on his throne.

© Peter Rogerson 18.11.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 18, 2018
Last Updated on November 18, 2018
Tags: debate, discussion, weapons, rape, preparation for war


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson