Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The Voyage of the Minotaur - Chapter 20 Excerpt
A young soldier burst into the tent, running into the back of Miss Hertling, and knocking her forward. She would have fallen completely to the floor had not Professor Calliere caught her.
“Kafira’s eyes!” snapped Iolanthe. “Don’t you know how to knock?”
“Sorry Ma’am,” said the soldier, nervously. “Sergeant Clark’s compliments, Ma’am. There is a large force of lizardmen approaching from the southeast. The sergeant has already called for all troops to man the ramparts. And the lizardmen have rifles, Ma’am.”
“Where the hell did they get rifles?” wondered Calliere.
“From our troops,” said Iolanthe, gravely. “How many lizardmen are there?”
“We don’t know, at least a thousand.”
“Tell the sergeant to hold the wall,” she ordered. The soldier then ran out of the tent. Turning to the women, she said. “Thirty five men aren’t going to hold the wall for long. Get everyone moving. We’re evacuating out to the end of the peninsula.”
“What are we going to do there?” asked Dr. Kelloran.
“We’re going to make our stand. Zeah, get some of the men and distribute as many guns and as much ammunition as we have. Go. Mercy, come with me.”
Iolanthe stepped out of the tent and marched purposefully toward the wall. Professor Calliere followed along behind her. When she reached the wall, she gathered up her dress and extensive petticoats into her left arm and used her right to climb up the ladder to the walkway that served as a firing platform twenty feet off the ground. Sergeant Clark was there.
“Where are they?” she asked, panting for breath and peering out of a firing port.
“Still mostly in the trees, but they’re out there.”
“And your men?”
“I’ve got them spread out fifty feet apart, but that means we’ve only got a fifth of the wall covered.”
“I can do the math,” she snapped. “You aren’t going to fight them from here. Just make them think you are. I want you to keep them cautious long enough for the colonists to get out onto the peninsula. Send four men to break the machine guns out of storage and set them up at that bottleneck four hundred yards north of the dock. That’s the only place we have a hope of holding them off.
“Mercy, you know the place, don’t you?”
“Good. You supervise. Get those machine guns set up.”
Calliere nodded again and rushed back down the ladder. Sergeant Clark called four men and ordered them to follow the professor. Iolanthe turned back to the soldier.
“I’ll send word to you when to fall back,” she said. “Remember Clark. You cannot fall back until those colonists are out near the coast. If those tribesmen get past our trap, it will be a bloodbath.”