11. AN ARMY WITHOUT FAITH

11. AN ARMY WITHOUT FAITH

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Two forces are getting prepared for battle

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Right,” called Gymboy to a fair gathering of men from the village, “I have suggested we get a bit of practice. Shooting arrows from a make-shift bow should be easy enough, but we ought to know what we’re doing and the best way of doing it.”

“These were toys when I were a lad,” suggested one old gaffer, gnarled with age, “with blunted tips and a target to shoot at when we were at play. And truth to tell I never saw them as weapons of war.”

Gymboy looked at him and smiled. “I played thus too,” he said, “and I was a fair shot, I can tell you! But times are getting to be serious and the tips of our arrows are not blunted like those you played with, but tipped with forged metal. It is reported to me that there are a thousand men coming this way, a thousand bullies with a king on horseback leading them. And we have created between us about a thousand arrows, so each one must tell. Each one must stop an armed warrior before he gets within the distance to launch his spear our way.”

“We’ll have to see,” muttered the old tribesman, “I was never with Kevvy and his dour words, but it seems to me that we’re hoping a lot to stop an army a thousand strong with lads’ toys.”

“We will see, Garva,” smiled Gymboy, “for the joy of our arrows is that a woman can just as easily fire them with almost as much force as a man, and knowing our womenfolk I’d put coin on them being more accurate!”

“I pray so,” muttered the oldster, the one Gymboy had called Garva.

“Then pay heed,” advised the young leader, “I have stuffed two bags with straw and leaned them against the two trees over there, one for the womenfolk, on the left, and one for us men, on the right...” he pointed, “and your task is to fire your arrows until you make the sacks look like porcupines!”

“They’re a big distance,” murmured Maggida, widow of the late Dodson whom the three armed man’s vicious companion had murdered. She was desperate to get even with the bully, his men and the King who claimed their land was his to give away.

“But we can do it,” encourage Gymboy, “if we use our best talents, and in my opinion our best talents are the thoughts in our heads and the way we use them. But let me demonstrate...”

He took a bow, similar in every way to a host of other bows that had been created over the past several days, and he selected an arrow from amongst many, and, taking great care when he took aim, he fired that arrow. It flew straight and true and landed on the soil mere feet away from the bag he’d been aiming at.

A cheer went up, but he raise done hand to quell it.

“I fear that was far fro being good enough. If I’d put more muscle into it the bag would have been pierced and the hedgehog would have one feathered spine,” he said. “Did you take note of where I place the notched end of the arrow and mark how hard I pulled the string back? Did you observe the bow flexing like a muscle, and how the arrow flew when it was released? Now come, you all have bows and there are plenty of arrows, though I would counsel against either losing or breaking any of them, for time may prove that they are indeed precious and our means of securing victory against a King we’ve barely heard of.”

Then the tribes-people started their practice, and it didn’t take long for the bag chosen by the women as their target to get a spattering of feathered quills.

“Our womenfolk are defeating us men!” scoffed Gymboy, “come on, lads, we can’t have this! We are the men of our tribe. We have the muscles. We must learn to defeat the fairer sex or forever be looked down on by them!”

And so the practice continued until all the arrows were used up and both bags had been pierced many times.

And if the women were more accurate than the men nobody thought to mention it, because unity is the one thing they had, and it was a most precious gift from their blood lines.

Oo0oo

Meanwhile,

King Jasper had harangued his men, calling in a loud and taunting voice, until they had staggered along, packs on backs and hearts dulled by criticism, for a few miles. They had reached a clearing big enough for most of them to squeeze into, and they huddled together against an autumn wind that was finding its way through the trees, to torment them.

“At this rate it will take a month to reach our enemy!” snapped the King, and he dismounted and looked despairingly at his men.

“You are a feeble gaggle!” he muttered, “anyone would think you had no spunk in you! Where is your strength? Where your courage? How come you have become so feeble in the face of military orders when you should be hale of power and strength?”

There was no reply to his questions, so he grabbed hold of one lad, a teenager maybe, or possibly a year or so older.

“Answer me!” he roared, “why are you such a kitten? Why have you less strength than a mewling babe in arms?”

The youth was too frightened to reply, and tears formed in his eyes. The sergeant decided that enough was enough and someone ought to stand up to King Jasper before there was nobody left in the army to bear arms.

“My Lord, it is the taxation,” he said, “the austerity under which our men must live.”

“What say you, sergeant?” barked the King, who realised that there were many present who may lose their heads to his blade as punishment for wrongful thinking, but not this sergeant, the only man present with any sort of military experience.

“The tax collectors come round almost every day, sire,” he said, defensively, “and the people are left with no fuel for their bellies, for meat and grain all cost money, and the little they had is taken in taxation. So the men you commandeered and made an army of are half-starved and weaklings, and it is not their fault.”

“You mean...” shouted the King, “it is your opinion … you are blaming me for this state of affairs?”

“You take the taxes, sire, you place them in your coffers...”

“You lie, sergeant!” snapped the King, “the men are being insolent if they refuse to eat! There is plenty of food about! The pantries in my castle are overburdened with all sorts of good stuff, and if I can afford it, so can they!”

The sergeant remained silent. He knew he had said more than enough to warrant a blade through his neck, and decided wisdom resided in being quiet. He had said what he felt ought to be said, and it wasn’t his fault if the King refused to hear his words.

But many of the men had heard the debate, and slowly, secretly, dozens of them slipped away, unseen, into the woods and between the trees until they were invisible to all, and secretly started making their way back to their homes.

And King Jasper opened his saddle bag and munched on a feast of cold meats and cheese whilst the remainder of his men looked on.

© Peter Rogerson 27.11.18




© 2018 Peter Rogerson


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Added on November 27, 2018
Last Updated on November 27, 2018
Tags: bows and arrows, villagers, King Jasper, practice, weaponry, weakness, hunger, austerity, army


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 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..

Writing