Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: Mammoths and Bison|
On the other side of the river I swung into the saddle of one of my horses and let Sarah drive, our wagon was the third in line. Sarah was more than happy with the smooth ride, her bond cat was sleeping on the bed behind her in the wagon. Little One liked to ride in front of me unless she wanted to sleep, if she got sleepy she would climb into her carrier.
It was a long day, the trail across the plains was clear with few trees close to it. The caravan master stopped by a few times and we talked. He said we would be stopping at what was called Caravan Keeps every night. We saw wolves a few times but they kept their distance and large herds of what I recognized as bison.
When we came within sight of tall walls I moved to the back of the wagon and unhooked the cart. I pulled it out of the way and put the handles in the loops beside my saddle. I thought to leave Little One with Sarah but she refused to leave me. I pulled the 450 express out of the wagon and turned away from the Keep.
While the wagons headed into the gate through the high walls, I headed towards a nearby herd of bison leading my horse with the cart behind him. I only glance back when I heard Jerome the dwarf stomping after me. I stopped a couple of hundred yards from the herd and waited for Jerome. I nodded towards the horse with Little One sitting up in the saddle, “Wait here.”
I moved to the side a little ways and knelt. I had been watching the herd and picked out a bull on the edge. The loud explosion caused my horse to stir but he had at least heard it before. The herd of bison stirred and began moving away. The bull I had been aiming at had dropped to its knees and then fallen over.
I put the big rifle on safe and moved to the cart. Little One was giving me a dirty look while Jerome had wide eyes. I set the rifle inside the cart and turned to lead the horse towards the downed bull. Jerome got himself together and hurried to catch up. We didn’t take long in skinning the bull and cleaning it.
We put everything in the cart and started back towards the Keep. I glanced back and saw several wolves coming out of the tall grass to feed on the offal from the bull. The inside of the Keep was strange, the walls were six feet thick. At each of the four corners there was a raised platform for a guard.
Jerome and I took meat for our own camps and the caravan master took the rest. Jerome didn’t even hesitate in rolling the large bull hide up and throwing it over his shoulder. We had gone slow while traveling so the horses had a chance to eat some of the grass. I had walked beside the wagon several times cutting grass with a long handled scathe and dropped it into the back of the wagon.
Little One wandered off with my directions to stay in the Keep. Sarah’s grey bond cat seemed happy to curl up on her lap after dinner and purr at her with pleasure. I checked each of the horses and the caravan master came by to give me my assigned shift on one of the watch towers. I slept fitfully that night and woke with relief when the camp guard came by to get me.
Watching the area outside with my night scope showed me why guards on the towers were necessary. I saw a couple of large cats as they made their way past the Keep and knew they would have been able to leap up and climb into the Keep. As the sun rose a mist followed and slowly the camp came to life.
We hadn’t been out of the Keep long when I saw a big cat coming out of the fog. It looked like a large mountain lion and it was heading for the lead horses pulling my wagon. I brought the new rifle up and fired in one smooth movement. The lion screamed as it stood up on its back legs and then fell to the ground biting at its side.
There was a few moments of panic along the caravan and gradually things calmed. I moved forward to the downed cat as it died. The caravan master and a couple of others appeared and then moved away. Jerome got there as I began to skin the lion and he immediately took the other side. It didn’t take long to finish and we rolled the skin up.
Our wagons had continued to move with the rest of the caravan. I tucked Little One back in her carrier before we started jogging to catch up. I slipped the skin into Jerome’s wagon before moving on to my own. I walked beside the wagon and Sarah grinned down at me as I handed Little One up.
She handed down the scathe and I moved off. I slung my rifle as I began cutting the tall grass. It was like the pattern I had set the day before only after the lion I was a lot more alert. It was a good thing I was paying attention because the man in front of me was doing the same thing I was.
He didn’t even see the large wolves as they came out of the grass for him. There wasn’t time for me to unsling my rifle so I dropped the scathe and drew my pistol. I put two shots into the first rushing wolf before switching to the next. The explosive sound of my pistol brought the wolves to a halt as I double tapped the second.
I shifted and shot a third and then a forth before they turned to run. The caravan was full of shouting and the man I had saved was staring at the wolf a few feet away from him in shock. I changed the magazine and moved to start skinning the first wolf. This time Jerome and I had help skinning the wolves while the caravan waited.
When we moved on everyone was more watchful. As we approached the next Keep I took the cart and began moving off towards a herd of bison in the distance. This time Little One stayed with Sarah as Jerome and I went hunting. I shot a huge bull at the edge of the herd and then because a second bull wouldn’t move away I shot it.
That night I had first watch and saw a sight I had never dreamed of seeing. A large herd of Mammoths bedded down at the base of the Keep wall. I was asked to shoot one of the creatures for its tusks and shook my head, (people never change). Sarah stayed up until my watch was over and we sat talking until it was late.
The next day was a repeat of the one before without the wolves. I was able to shoot three antelopes before we reached the next Keep so I didn’t bother going after Bison. I didn’t have guard that night and lay against my saddle with Little One on my lap. I wasn’t sure what had awakened me until I heard the horses snort uneasily.
I reached beside me and lifted my rifle. I had placed the night scope on just in case and switched it on now. I slowing began checking around the camp and froze when I saw a huge lion crouching beside the small camp fire across the way. I took careful aim and flicked off the safety. The quiet click of the safety made the large cat’s ears flick towards me.
It looked across the camp straight at me. I squeezed and the night was shattered by the roar of my rifle and then by the scream of the lion. The Keep was alive with shouts and yells, the horses were screaming and everything was in chaos. I moved across to the dying lion as others began to gather.
It turned out that one of the men on guard had fallen asleep. The caravan master put extra men on each post so it wouldn’t happen again. Jerome watched as I skinned the lion and then helped drag the body out a gate. We came back to the caravan master who nodded and turned away. I shook my head and for the first time Jerome grinned.
It took awhile before I was able to sleep. Little One finally curled up on my chest and began to purr. It was strange how something like that can help someone fall asleep. I woke to the touch of one of the night guards moving around waking everyone. When we moved out we had to go slow because a large herd of bison were spread across the plain in front of us.
All day we moved like that and the caravan master stopped by to say we would be getting to the next Keep late. I shot an old bull and Jerome and I skinned and cleaned it while the caravan waited. We reached the next Keep after dark and moved in carefully. I was leading several men in to check it when I noticed the far man sized gate open.
I held my hand up to stop everyone and then pointed at the open gate. The pack of wolves came out of the dark and into our lantern light snarling. I didn’t hesitate and shot the first one I had seen through the chest. I hit the second in the neck and then they were running away. The problem was that they didn’t head out the far gate.
I waved the men back and used the night scope. I shot the wolves one after another until they were all dead. They helped me drag the wolves out the far gate before leading the wagons in. It was awhile before I finished skinning the wolves, even with Jerome’s help. I was on watch on the far wall when I saw the large group of men approaching.
They were quiet and had naked swords in their hands. I nudged the other man on guard with me and let him look through the scope. He turned to face the camps, “Raiders!”
I took the rifle as the men below charged at the gate. I fired rapidly taking the first three before they could reach the gate. I hit another as he was opening the gate and lanterns flared to life. I turned and headed down the stairs inside the Keep. There were three raiders just inside the gate with arrows in them, the rest were fighting with men from several camps.
I shot two men that stood beside the gate with short horse bows and then headed into the fight. A big man came out of the semi darkness and I side stepped his stabbing knife. I struck out and crushed his windpipe before moving on. I shot a man that sprang at me from the shadows and headed towards the last group still fighting.
The last of the raiders fell with arrows in their back as I reached them. It was a long time before things calmed down. We were lucky, only three men were injured and they weren’t hurt that bad. The rest of the night was tense and we got little sleep. We moved out the next day more carefully.
The days slowly crept by and a week and a half later we approached what looked like a gash through the earth. A huge Keep spanned it and the caravan master stopped us before the gates. Half of us approached and opened the gate. I was carrying my old HK416 with the silencer since it didn’t scare the horses.
Once inside I saw that the Keep was split. Each half was the normal size of a Caravan Keep. Two rope bridges spanned each side and a wide solid looking bridge crossed the gap in front of us. On the other side of the bridge was a group of ragged looking men. What I didn’t like were the four crossbowmen on the far wall.
The caravan master had us wait and walked to the near side of the bridge. I could hear the brigands making demands and watched as one of the crossbowmen lifted his crossbow. I didn’t wait and took aim. I fired and switched to another man and then another. I took the last crossbowman as the group at the bridge realized something was happening.
I shot the leader and then just start shooting anyone that stayed still to long. I killed the last three as they ran for the far gate. After that it was only a matter of dragging the bodies out and bringing the wagons in and across the bridge. I went out with the cart and Jerome and found a small herd of elk.
I killed two and we cleaned them. He looked at me as we headed back, “We reach the settlements tomorrow evening.”
I glanced at him, “You have family there?”
He nodded and pulled a long stem of grass as we walked before putting it in his mouth. He looked at me again, “You weren’t what I expected.”
I smiled, “If you always expect people to act a certain way, you will either be satisfied or surprised.”
He laughed and nodded before falling silent. I had last watch that night and stood looking out at the low foot hills in the morning light. When I returned to the wagon it was to see a large pile of pelts in the back with Little One curled up on top. I looked at Jerome breaking camp nearby, “This looks like more than half the pelts.”
His wife looked up from her work and smiled as Jerome got a red face, “I say it is half.”
I raised an eyebrow and he looked down and scuffed the dirt, “Take it Samuel.”
I smiled, “Thank you Jerome.”
He nodded and all to soon we were headed out. Large wolves ran from the dead bodies as we came out but that was all. The plains turned into low rolling hills and I swung up onto a horse. I had switched to the newer super long and carried it across the saddle bow. I saw the spotted lion as it came closer to the wagons and slid out of the saddle.
By now the others in the wagon train knew what that meant and started looking around. Several saw the large cat and pulled out bows. I aimed and fired which made all the horses nervous but they had heard it enough by now. I walked out to the dead animal with Jerome and two other men. The wagons stopped and waited the few minutes it took for us to skin the big cat.
Not long after I killed the cat we came to a small deep river. It had a wide stone bridge that I had to study as we crossed. After that we crossed a river or large stream almost every hour and they all had stone bridges. It was a couple of hours before sunset when we reached the dwarven settlements.
The walls we came to were huge. At least a hundred feet high with funnel like crenels that would allow bowmen to shoot out at an angle. When we entered the wide gate I discovered the wall was probable twenty meters thick. We came out in a huge caravan yard with corrals to one side and a small party of dwarves waiting.
It didn’t take long to put the horses in a corral and I made a quiet camp. That was when Sarah told me she had been offered a position with Jerome and his family. I smiled and relaxed as she made dinner, “You should take it. Jerome is a grumpy dwarf but he has a good heart and his wife seems understanding.”
She smiled and nodded, it was after dinner that the small party of dwarves came to the camp. I was leaning back with Little One on my chest. The leader and a gruffly dwarf named Peter squatted across from me, “Jerome says you are a worthy man.”
I smiled as I kept petting Little One, “I can be useful.”
He smiled as he watched the cat and then cleared his throat, “You are traveling further west?”
I nodded, “I was thinking of Calef.”
He looked at another dwarf before looking back at me, “You will resupply here before moving on?”
I nodded again as Little One stood to stretch and then hopped off me and headed into the night to explore and hunt. I looked back at Peter who had been watching Little One. He grinned, “Perhaps we can talk about a deal. I will buy your furs and pay for your supplies in exchange for letting my brother and his family travel with you to the Dwarven Tunnels.”
I looked at the other dwarfs, “And what else?”
He hesitated as his eyes narrowed, “What do you mean?”
I smiled and looked into his eyes, “What is he carrying besides his family?”
He looked at my face before nodding, “There are a few… gems he might be taking with him.”
I sighed and leaned to the side where the small chest from the dragon’s cave lay. I flipped up the lid and then looked back at the wide eyed dwarves, “like these?”
Peter absently nodded and then shook himself, “Where…?”
I laughed and began telling him my story, as I was talking they relaxed and pulled out pipes with the strange herbs Bris had smoked. When I finished my tale they were grinning and looking at each other.
Peter cleared his throat, “We have a large supple of gems we need taken to the Tunnels and Jerome said you are good man for a human. After hearing your story, I think he is right.”
I nodded thinking about robbers and thieves, “I think I might need to use a smithy and a supply of chemicals.”
I stood and moved to the wagon before pulling a small parchment book out. I flipped to the page I needed as I walked back. Bris had written everything out in a kind or flowing script that was Dwarvish. I turned it to show Peter, “I need these items.”
He took the book gently and the other dwarves moved to look over his shoulder. He nodded and looked up, “This shouldn’t be a problem.”
I nodded, “And the smithy?”
He frowned and looked at one of the other dwarfs, “Johansons?”
The other dwarf nodded and Peter looked at me, “What do you need made?”
I took the book from him and sat down. I pulled the thin graphite pencil from the binding as I thought about a suppressor for the 45 Super Long rifle. I carefully began to sketch each component as the dwarves gathered around to look over my shoulder. When I finished, I looked back at Peter. He smiled and nodded, “Easy enough.”
I started to tear the page out and he stopped me, “I’ll copy it.”
I handed him the book as he clenched his pipe between his teeth and pulled out a similar book. I looked at the other dwarves, “Where can I buy some of your… pipe herbs?”
They grinned and the next thing I knew I was the proud owner of an older pouch and the combined gifts of herbs from all the dwarves. I was even given a small old milk white stone pipe. I was also given a small box of sulfur matches and started a small bowl of herbs. It was as I remembered and seemed to wake me up. Peter finished copying my drawing and they left.
Over the next couple of days I went to a dwarf smithy and made a suppresser and Peter sold some of the hides I didn’t want and my extra horses. I kept a few bison hides for cooler weather and purchased new supplies. Sarah left the second day after giving me a hug and a kiss on my cheek.
The family of dwarves had four grown men; Dodson, Samuel, Adalson and Maderson. The mother seemed very nice and there were actually four younger dwarves, two boys and two girls. One of the boys drove my wagon as we headed out the gates.
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