Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Iron Will-Chapter 2

Here is the next part to the story I'm working on right now. Sometime in the next two weeks I hope to get another guitar video up. It will be about the muting technique in the song, 'The Lord is My Strength'.

Chapter II
Jakin stayed up all night. When the fires died down he did not build them back up. His goal was not to keep spies and enemies away, but to draw them in. The night was uneventful however, and when the camp began to stir in the morning he woke Lucas and stole a few minutes sleep. When he awoke he saw a plate of biscuits and gravy with a tin cup of strong black coffee beside it. He was somewhat refreshed after the meal and began striking camp with the rest of the men. Lucas joined him in a few minutes and he said, “Thank you for breakfast.”
              “Thank-you for watching all night,” said a soldier who was helping taking down a tent beside them. “It was supposed to be my watch.”
              “He knew you’d fall asleep,” said Lucas with a smile.
Lucas was generally well liked among the soldiers. He was too kind and conscientious not to be liked. Of course, Parson didn’t like him, but Parson was an exception.
              “Jakin didn’t fall asleep did he?” asked the man humorously.
“Of course he did,” said another. “Lucas had to wake him up three or four times.”
              Lucas didn’t see the need to respond. All the soldiers knew that Jakin could go without sleep for days. Jakin did not respond either, but rolled up the tent and moved on. Lucas followed him and before long the camp was struck. The soldiers fell into line and Brigadier General Garfield ordered the march. They proceeded eastwards down the pass back into Glasgow. They had crossed the first range in double barrier presented by the Carrock Range in a fruitless, but well-grounded search for the rebels, thinking they may have retreated to ask for aid from the Dracians. Dracia was a mysterious place. Few people went there and out of the people who did go few came out.  Dracia was lined with outlaws and mountain men who wished to escape the troubles of life or live secluded from people. This also kept people from entering Dracia. Jakin had never been to Dracia. It was his dream to go there someday, not only to brave the dangers of criminals and mountain men but also to face the wild crags, spurs, canyons, steep ascents and descents, wild animals and all the accompanying physical trials such as cold, hunger, pain, fatigue and thirst. He loved adventure and although he hated everything else about war, he was able to appreciate the trying circumstances the army was placed in and he took joy in the trials which tracking the rebels presented. He hated war. Ever since he had left the Duke of Orland, he had hate war and tried to avoid it. He had even tried to run away from Glasgow’s army before but he had failed and had been brought back by Parson and a few others who had been sent to get him. It was then that he had received the slash which ran from right to left in a diagonal on the other side of his right eye beginning at his hair all the way to the tip of his ear. It was an ugly scar, and it did much to override the handsomeness of his face, but anybody who could imagine his face without it would see a very handsome young man. (If he could learn to wash the dirt and blood off of his face and dress in some decent clothes).
              The march was long and toilsome. The soldiers, disappointed at finding the rebels had not withdrawn to Dracia, but had retreated eastwards towards Xenith, were not in the best of moods. They talked little and their entire bearing communicated utter fatigue and disgust. Consequently, the march was not a very bright one, (especially since the sun was beating down on them so hard), and when Garfield called the troop to a halt once they were in the foothills, the soldiers set up camp grudgingly and not without grumbling. Once the tents had been pitched and the camp set up, the soldiers withdrew to different tents to gamble and play at cards, filling the tents with smoke from their cigars and pipes. Although the sergeant called lights out, Parson and his company stayed up till one or two with their gambling games.               Jakin took first watch, as usual, and Lucas stayed up with him till Jakin, tired from the lack of sleep the night before and the long march, turned in. Usually Jakin took the second watch, the one from two to four, because it was the most dangerous of the watches. During the time from lights out till two, the camp had not yet been quite enough for wild animals or enemy troops to approach and therefore it was a relatively easy watch. The night before he had stayed up because he was meditating the charges of desertion and his plans of escape, but tonight he had stayed up to watch Parson. Parson was not only ruthless, cruel, mean-spirited and morally deficient, he was also mysterious, strange and unpredictable. He often disappeared for several days and then reappeared somewhere along the trail. The others didn’t usually notice his absence until long after he had left or when he returned suddenly, but Jakin always knew when he left and when he returned. His eyes observed everything and scarcely anything went by without him noticing it. Parson’s disappearances were not very alarming although, for the captains never addressed him about it or brought forward charges of desertion. This inclined Jakin to think that Glasgow was sending him away on private missions, which made him wonder if Parson was a member of the Intelligence Corps. Parson did not seem physically good enough for the Intelligence Corps. Jakin never took much of an interest in it although. His plans were not to defeat Parson by degrading him and bringing charges against him, but by destroying him physically. Jakin was not strong enough for that now. Although Jakin did not think Parson physically strong enough to enter the Intelligence Corps, Parson was still strong above average, and he was always surrounded by his friends, which made beating him much harder.
              Jakin’s watch passed uneventfully however, and when he handed the watch over to Ralph, Parson was asleep which gave Jakin the necessary ease to fall asleep also, but it was the light sleep of a hunter, not the deep, drunken sleep which Parson enjoyed.
              In the morning the camp was struck and the army proceeded down into the gentle valleys and plains at the foot of the Carrock Range. The army reached Kenneth before the afternoon had passed, and took up lodging there until the necessary information could be received of the enemy’s location.
              This took some time. He questioned Brigadier General Garfield when he returned from the army headquarters and Garfield said that the General, Rupert Collings, had not yet discovered the rebels’ location. Scouts had been sent out two days before and the army hoped to receive intelligence of the enemy’s whereabouts in two days. Jakin strongly felt that he was viewed suspiciously when he entered the army headquarters. He could not discover what it was about him which excited their attention. Perhaps he was too inquisitive he shrugged, as he returned to the barracks. Lucas met him in the room where he and Lucas, together with Ralph and six others, shared a room in the northern wing of the army barracks.
              “I’m going to the tavern,” declared Jakin as he sat down on his hard cot and laid his rifle in the rack above it. He laid his grey cloak on the edge of his bed and went to the door. “You coming?” he asked just before leaving.
              Lucas shook his head and Jakin walked out. He went between the wide alley between the north and south barracks till it joined the large road leading between the storehouses and armories and the barracks where he turned off onto street running down the middle of the town. Being a garrison town, Kenneth had several taverns, blacksmiths, saddlers and tailors shops under contract to produce uniforms, shoes, saddles, gun parts, swords, cloaks, helmets and other trappings for the army’s use. Since the garrison had just returned home, many street corners were occupied by young girls and soldiers and as Jakin passed them he noticed Parson standing with a young girl about sixteen on one of the corners. Jakin shook his head in disappointment and breathed a quick prayer that the girl would gain some sense and avoid the likes of Parson. 
             There was a large tavern on the main street down the town, and another on one of the back streets which he preferred because it was quieter and was not frequented by Parson, but tonight Parson was on a street corner with a girl he had sweet-talked and wouldn’t dare show his face in there among the rest of the soldiers. Jakin walked in and was immediately enshrouded in a cloud of grey smoke from pipes and stoves in the back of the tavern. Jakin pulled his grey cloak about him and took off his hood as he sat down on a chair in the back of the room where he commanded a good view of everything in the tavern. After a minute or two, the bartender’s boy came over and asked quickly, “Whiskey, ale or…” he stopped as he recognized Jakin’s face. “Why, it’s you.”
              Jakin nodded.
“You don’t come here often,” the boy explained. Jakin had formed a relationship with this young boy after saving him from Parson one late night at about two in the morning. Parson and some others were being waited on by him when they got a bit more drunk then usual and began throwing him about. Jakin had been sitting unnoticed on the opposite side of the room, in the chair he sat now. He had stood up and told Parson to stop and when Parson refused, he had kicked them all out of the tavern. He had worn a hood then and not many people had been in the tavern which contributed to the fact that he was not very well recognized by anybody in the tavern.
              “The ale’s better at the Last Star,” said Jakin.
The boy shrugged, “Perhaps. My uncle thinks his ale is best but I guess tavern owners always do. What do you want?”
              “Red wine.”
The boy nodded and hurried off to get the order. When he returned Jakin took the glass and said, “I would have got it myself, but the tavern is crowded tonight.”
              “Yes,” said the boy, “With the soldiers’ return the place has filled back up.”
Jakin took a sip of the wine and asked quietly after a moment, “Have you been getting on alright?”
              “Fair enough. My uncle’s not a very kind man but I earn a few pence a week and that keeps me happy.”
              “Happy? Really?”
The boy squirmed under Jakin’s gaze. “He only beats me once a week, honest.”
              Jakin laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “Keep your courage up, wait till times change.” He gave a wry smile and added, “Find yourself a sweet-heart like Parson did. It seems the thing to do these days.”
              The boy laughed, Jakin ruffled his hair and sent him back to the counter with the price for his drink and eight pence to keep for himself. The boy whispered a heartfelt thank-you and ran back to serve a new group of men coming in. Jakin took another drink of his wine and said without turning, “You can’t catch me unawares Lucas.”
              Lucas sat down beside him and handed him a pipe. Jakin took it and blew a ring out to mix amongst the smoke which filled the tavern.  “I’ve tried for four years to sneak up on you, Jakin. It never, ever works.”
              Jakin bought Lucas a drink and said, “I’ve tried for four years to understand why you follow me around. I never have.”
              Lucas smiled, “You always buy me drinks.”
Jakin gave him a friendly shove, “That’s not the reason.”       
              Lucas didn’t reply immediately so Jakin changed the subject. “Parson’s got himself a sweet-heart.”
              “Really?” said Lucas with an unbelieving expression.
“Yes, although I doubt he feels anything towards her.”
              “You can’t be serious.”
Jakin drained his glass, “Why do you think he’s absent tonight?”
              Lucas looked around. Jakin was right. Parson was nowhere to be seen. Jakin leaned back against the wall and blew another ring of smoke through the hazy tavern. Just then the back-door opened and a darkly clad figure seated himself a few chairs over from where Jakin and Lucas sat. Jakin observed him for some time out of the corner of his eye. The man was very fidgety and nervous. His hood was drawn about his face and he never looked directly at anybody. Jakin looked at Lucas and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged and Jakin stood up to go. Lucas followed him and they left through the back door, jus tin time to see Parson come in the front. They walked back to the barracks in silence until Lucas said, “I think that man was a spy.”
              “He would definitely fit a description of one,” Jakin remarked.
Lucas gave a smile, “You would know of course, you were one yourself.”
              “Yes, and I wouldn’t want to be one again. I’m not very smooth at playing a part I’m not, nor am I good at getting information out of people through sly conversation.”
              Lucas laughed, “That would be hard for you. You can barely even carry on a normal conversation.”
              Jakin whirled around, “When I have something good to say, I say it.”
“Yes, and often very vehemently too; especially when you disagree with someone else.” Lucas’ smiling, boyish face communicated perfect humor and under it the wish to always lighten Jakin’s spirits. Jakin’s spirits were fairly high at the moment, but his mind was troubled by the appearance of the strange man in the tavern. However, the card games and drills soon filed those thoughts away into a subconscious file reachable when necessary. After the card games and drills, Jakin left the barracks and walked slowly down the darkening streets, still full of people and noisy groups of soldiers. They grew silent after a while, and Jakin proceeded down the dark and quiet streets, performing an unordered patrol of the city. There were several occasions where he felt like he was being followed and watched which made him increasingly uneasy. He kept his right hand on the butt of his pistol and the other rested on the handle of his bayonet. No one jumped on him in the dark alleys though, and he reached the barracks in safety. He slipped quietly past the sleeping men to his own bunk where he chained his rifle to his feet and laid his pistols beside him on the bed along with the two cumbersome belts of ammunition he wore. From the top bunk he could just see out of the barred window into the dark sky where a crescent moon was rising. The wind was blowing whisps of cloud across it that reminded Jakin of the tides that were sweeping him along from battle to battle. For what? He asked himself and then gave himself over to sleep.
              In the morning there was still no word from any of the scouts so the army enjoyed another day in relative quiet and merriment. Jakin spent most of his time exercising and practicing his sword skills and his aim with the brace of pistols he had bought himself in Carrock. Lucas came in and out, now exercising, now shooting Jakin’s pistols whenever Jakin stopped to teach him how to perfect his aim. Jakin had been handling a gun since he was six, and although the guns in use were fairly clumsy and inaccurate, he had perfected his aim with those he owned. He had learned to notice the way the pistols shot in all types of conditions and he had learned where each one would be shoot to the right or left or above or below his target, which had for a long time been a man’s chest. But now he shot at the head and rarely missed. This resulted in quick deaths and less suffering for those who were unfortunate enough to meet him as his enemy on the field of battle. Of course, those who happened to be his friends on the field of battle were treated with great loyalty and care. Each of his soldiers would hear him quietly give a humble word of instruction or a quick and sharp warning when danger was near. The amount of soldiers in his division whose lives he had saved were well over a hundred, but I suppose that was counterbalanced in the fact that he had killed over a hundred rebels.
              Lucas shrunk from killing anyone unless they were on the point of killing him. He had argued countless times with Jakin on this point but Jakin was never convinced. “I am a soldier under orders,” he would say. “The power to give life is not given to me, only the power to take it.”
              They were out practicing one day when Jakin said very softly, “Cover me.”
He sprang from the place he had taken in front of the targets provided by the army headquarters and sprinted towards the palisade surrounding the garrison. With a bound he jumped up, grabbed the top of the wooden fence and vaulted onto the other side. Lucas, meanwhile, had ran for the gate in the palisade where it was easier to climb and stood perched there with a rifle aimed at the figure Jakin was now chasing. The figure did not offer any fight however, but merely ran with a speed which astonished Lucas, for Jakin gained on the figure only very slowly. Lucas leapt from his perch and followed them, knowing that Jakin would be safe for the time being, and knowing that they would both soon be out of site from the top of the gate since they now veered off the main road and ran for the back alleys of the town. Lucas tried in vain to catch up with them. Their speed was incredible.
              Jakin was now intrigued and interested with the figure he was chasing. It ran with great speed down the streets and alleys making hairbreadth turns and climbing over walls with the agility which Jakin himself could hardly match. The figure was a slim figure with long legs and a dark cloak enshrouding most of his body. This much Jakin could see from the distance he was away from it. Jakin’s heart was screaming for a break as it pounded ferociously inside his chest before the figure slowed its pace. It did not stop running, but turned for a quick moment and drew a pistol out from under its cloak. Jakin saw it too late to draw his own pistol. He had tried to avoid shooting the figure, but as the bullet sank into his shoulder, he gritted his teeth and wished he had. It took awhile for Lucas to reach the street they were on and when he reached it his muscles were aching with pain. But when he saw Jakin’s crumpled figure on the ground he broke into a desperate run at his top speed. He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees at Jakin’s side. The figure had disappeared and Lucas shouted, “General Garfield!” at the top of his lungs. He didn’t wish to move Jakin, for fear the bullet had fractured a rib or broken a bone in his shoulder. It took a while for Garfield to get there. He stooped over Jakin and whispered, “Dear God.”
              Lucas looked up, “Is he dead?”
The captain shrugged, “I don’t know. It looks like it.”
              And indeed, it did at least until Jakin moved his hand and opened his eyes. Lucas breathed a sigh of relief and the Captain sent an orderly to fetch the camp surgeon. It seemed forever till he came. Then the captain and Lucas helped Jakin onto a stretcher and they carried him back to the camp. The surgeon disappeared inside a room with Jakin and an assistant.
              Lucas stood for a long ten minutes outside the door with the captain before the assistant opened the door and beckoned to them to enter. Jakin sat up in the bed with a white sheet of cloth wrapped under on arm and over the shoulder of the other arm. The surgeon looked up as they entered and handed the captain a piece of paper with a few notes written on it under three different points. Lucas waited patiently till the officer finished reading the note and addressed him saying, “The bullet went all the way through. It looks like it passed perfectly between two ribs but it might have fractured the one on the back side.” Lucas gave a sigh of relief.
              Garfield shook his head and Jakin began to see a glimmer of hope in his being able to get out of the army and go back to the wild. Just then a messenger entered the door, saluted respectfully and handed the Captain a piece of paper folded four times, saying, ‘With all respects from Captain Wilson, 5th Regiment.”
              He clicked his heels and shut the door behind him. The captain opened the note hastily and the surgeon whispered, “Wilson is the commander of the scout party sent to ascertain the rebels’ position.”
              The captain folded the paper back up and placed it in his breast pocket. “Captain Wilson sends a positive location for the rebels. This young man will have to join the 23rd when it marches tomorrow.”
              The surgeon saluted and the captain left. Jakin bit his lip and Lucas gave a slight sigh. “Well, goodbye to any chances of you leaving the army.”
              “That is of no importance. I couldn’t really leave anyway,” said Jakin quietly, but offered no explanation. 

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