The Calm

Things were proceeding nicely. As far as Welsley was concerned at any rate. Her arrival at the river outpost had sparked a rush of construction projects. Over the first few days she watched as her soldiers erected a shelter for her and her attendants. Wooden and solid, it was luxurious compared with the spartan tents her troops lived out of.

The focus of the outpost’s soldiers impressed Welsley. They had broken their focus to build a more permanent structure for their Light but after that they were back to building up the defences. Their own comfort was of low priority, their focus was on protecting the bridge across the river and the people beyond. Armour, weapons, and horses were more important than the men themselves. A stable, a forge, and an armoury were in the process of construction while the soldiers still slept in the mud and the dirt.

Welsley Koarl considered this as she walked through the camp, her goal the beginnings of the outpost’s gatehouse. She could hear the sounds of wood being chopped, sawed and hammered increase in volume as she and her entourage – four soldiers, two attendants – approached the edge of the camp that lay beside the well-used logging road.

There were no villages on this side of the river only logging camps. The road had been worn into the ground through years of carting wagons loaded with cut trees and the occasional military patrol. Most days the road was barren and unused.

The soldiers that made up the population of the outpost had made good progress on clearing the trees from the riverside. Their need for building material had bared the land and pushed the edge of the forest further back. The wide open space would make it significantly more difficult for an enemy to approach the bridge unnoticed.

An open plain made mounted warfare possible and would make the outpost’s garrison more effective.

“They keep stealing my lumber,” an older man approached her as they arrived at the construction site.

“Good morning, Commander,” Welsley inclined her head in greeting. There was no need to ask who was doing the stealing. It was the Falson troops. Under their matriarch’s orders they had taken to “requisitioning” hewn lumber with which to complete the work on the command bunker. The dust and the dirt were a hardship her guests just couldn’t accept.

“I don’t care if they want to waste their time making the building livable,” the old warrior grumbled, “but they should cut their own trees. Every log they take delays the building of the walls. The walls are more important than their comfort.”

“I will mention it to them again,” Welsley smiled.

She had liked Commander Alister Roberts immediately upon meeting him. He treated his command, the river outpost, as he would his own realm. He refused to show deference to ranks or titles and treated everyone who entered his “domain” the same. He worked tirelessly alongside the troops under his command which created an aura of awe and loyalty among them.

The men’s attitude amused Light Koarl, the same could not be said about Light Falson.

“For all the good that will do,” the man grumbled.

“It might just be simplest to harvest more trees yourself,” Welsley offered.

The man grunted in response.

“Any news from our scouts?” she asked, her eyes drifted across the edge of the forest.

“None have returned so far,” was the reply. There was a pause before he added, “the soldiers at the forest’s edge will let us know as soon as the invaders are spotted. In the meantime we’ll continue the work on the walls, with a bit of luck they’ll be erected before the enemy arrives.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Stay out of the way,” his voice dropped in volume, a rare display of respect to his Light, “your presence makes the men nervous.”

She nodded. “Carry on.”

“I’ll let you know as soon as a scout is spotted,” he offered.

“Thank-you, Commander,” Welsley replied as she walked back into the camp.

There was little she could do at the moment but wait. She allowed herself to take a leisurely walk among her soldier’s tents. She had no desire to return to the Falsons and their complaints. Better to let the other women tire themselves out working on their project to civilize the command bunker than to allow them to tire her out with their nagging.

“Your Eminence!”

She was interrupted by a shout.

“A man has emerged from the forest.”

“Just one?”

“Yes, Your Eminence. Not one of ours.”

“Whose?” she asked.

The runner just shrugged as they headed back to the gatehouse.


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