An Owl on My Sceptre

by Joe

Chapter 10

The wagons had been on the rough military road for most of the day; they'd arrive at Army Headquarters within the next hour. The Dodger was driving the lead wagon and had become quite expert in the course of the trip. Of course he'd had expert instruction from Sorcha that began well before the trip. Driving an eight horse hitch of Clydesdales was an accomplishment of which he was very proud and which would have been unthinkable just two years ago. The familiars had managed to get them quickly to the general area of the front, but they'd still had about two hundred miles of rough road to follow before reaching Army HQ.

Gary, usually a voluble companion, had been quiet for the last few hours, had seemed preoccupied, at least a thousand miles away. Of course, the Dodger was seldom very good company when he was driving; he was constantly chatting, and even sometimes singing, to his horses. Gary seemed to come awake as they moved into the camping area and the Dodger positioned his wagon with smooth dexterity and aplomb. Gary immediately abandoned the wagon and walked over to a working party of soldiers that were digging a hole. These soldiers were all from the 8th Regiment of Foot and didn't know Gary.

"Whatcha' doin'?" Gary inquired politely of the Corporal who seemed to be in charge.

"Whatcha' doin'?" He repeated more loudly when the Corporal ignored him.

One of the diggers, a young private with a cheerful countenance and a cheeky attitude, stepped back with his shovel. "We're diggin' a well, see? Fer water."

"Well, you'll have to dig fifty-four feet for water if ya keep digging here. Over there, by that hummock, there's a spring. You'd have water already if you had dug there."

"Bugger off ye twat!" Snarled the Corporal.

At that point, Copenhagen appeared and growled deep in the back of his throat as he said, You'll watch your mouth if you know what's good for you. You're talking to a King's Man and if he tells you to dig over there, you say, "yessir" and commence digging.

"Good, come on," Gary said to the cheeky Private as he picked up a shovel and started toward the hummock. "We're gonna have to plan for surplus water from the spring, so we'll need to run a ditch along there," he pointed as the two of them neared the hummock. "Then the surplus can flow easily and make a little pond just there," he pointed.

Shut the fuck up arse breath, Copey continued to growl at the Corporal who had started to open his mouth. You were only gonna put your foot deeper down your throat. Get over there with your men and do exactly as Master Ashmore tells you. I can have your stripes and have you laying track with the railroaders quick enough if I hear anymore shit from you!

You men, Copey glowered at the other members of the working party from the 8th Regiment. Get over there and help with the water project. Whatever Master Ashmore tells you to do, you do. Corporal, on second thought, get back to your post and get a larger working party out here this instant. You don't want General Spurgeon to be as pissed as I am just the now.

Later that afternoon, General Spurgeon, neatly turned-out in field service uniform and mounted on his favorite bay charger, came by to greet the new arrivals accompanied by Surus. Their attention was immediately drawn to the spring and reservoir that Gary and his working party were just finishing. Sergeant Kelsey was now in charge of the working party every member of which had now been won over by Gary merely by getting to know him.

"Hullo friend," Gary smiled at Surus. "Tell me, does the resistance the familiars have felt around here seem as strong to you now as it's been?"

Surus looked around seemingly deep in thought. Why no. Now that you mention it, it doesn't. In fact, I think it's gone.

"Oh good. That should make it easier on you from now on."

"What did you say?" Colin had been approaching and hadn't heard everything.

This young man has somehow removed the interference we've been experiencing when trying to transport.

In the natural way of such things, Humphrey had observed the appearance of Surus and moments later, the approach of Colin. Rather than come to him, they had stopped with Gary and his working party. Humphrey now had to dash to Gary's side without appearing to be in a hurry. He worried that he would make a poor appearance as Lawrence had forbade him robes.

"Humphrey," Colin seemed pleased. "It's good to see you. How was the trip? How's Lawrence?"

Humphrey was relieved. His lack of proper robes had gone unremarked, but before he could respond one of the busybody familiars started in.

This young man, Surus indicated Gary with a wave of his trunk that was clearly respectful. Is an Earth Magister. I've not met another since Eratosthenes in Alexandria, two thousand some years ago. I don't know how he did it, but the impedance is gone.

Colin looked the question at Gary. "Well, I don't know about the 'magister' bit; but I can certainly feel the earth. That's how I knew where the water was." Gary replied to the unasked question.

I imagine you can sense many other things around you, too. Surus' words smiled even if he could not.

Colin returned his attention to Gary, "Did you say that the familiars can now move without hindrance?"

"That's what Surus said and what I was hoping.

"Look you here, Donnie," Gary returned his attention to his water project. "Go and tell that stupid corporal that the berm is high enough. Then tell the sergeant that the men are to have a break and I'll get them some beer for a good job done."

"Sir," and Donnie moved off with his trademark cheeky grin.

"Humphrey, can you have Dafydd get these guys two pints of beer each and some pizza, or sandwiches, or something, whatever?"

Colin smiled at Gary and his engineering project. It would be very useful. But there remained the puzzling comments about the familiars. "So, Gary, you were saying about the familiars."

"Oh yeah. Well, you know about magnetic fields and electrical charges and all that stuff, right milord?" He didn't wait for an answer, but proceeded. "I think someone around here has built a field generator of some kind and has altered the magnetic field a bit. So the familiars have like a positive charge and the area here has a positive charge, so it's kind of like pushing the positive poles of two magnets together. Not as strong, 'course, but that's the principle.

"So I adjusted the Earth's natural field to compensate for it. The generator is still doing its thing, but it no longer affects the familiars. I've degaussed the familiars. Or was it the other way round?" He looked thoughtful.

He smiled sunnily at Colin. "Did you know that my pal Lawrence is a healer? He kept care of all the horses on the way here. He's over there with the Dodger giving them each a massage now. You're lucky to love him," he assured Humphrey.

Colin dismounted, "So Gary let me make sure I understand this. The familiars can now move without obstruction; but the generator that the enemy set-up is still operating. Is that right?"


"Do they know that the familiars can now move at will?"

"Dunno for sure, but I don't think so. Copey or Babieca could check it out easy enough, I think."

At which point Dafydd appeared with his own neatly attired working party carrying hampers and coolers.

Gary continued with scarcely a break, "Dafydd, those men over there get a break. Two beers and whatever else you got there. But before you give them anything, they need to clean-up in the pond and get into their uniforms cuz the general is here now."

Moments later the 8th Regiment of Foot had stripped off their muddy shorts and boots and were skinny dipping in the pond while Dafydd set up their buffet. There was no pizza, however, roughing it as they were.


King of my Heart,

Do you remember, shortly before I had to come here, we were in the stable, and I pointed out the barn cats and how relaxed and quiet they were together. And I reminded you of your neighbor in San Diego who had all the yappy little dogs that ran up and down yapping at everything and nothing. I mention this because this is the strategy I'm going to use against the Trolls.

Gary, as it happens, is something called an Earth Magister and he has made it possible for the familiars to move unimpeded. So my reconnaissance problems have all been solved. I know exactly where the Trolls are, and they have only a general idea of where we are. So I'm going to adopt the barn cat strategy. I'll relax until it's time to hunt, and then I'll corner them and they will not be able to maneuver.

This has greatly eased our supply and support issues. We still need the railroad, of course, as there are not enough familiars to move the entire army, but we're almost ready for battle.

I now command four divisions of regular infantry and I've brigaded the inexperienced battalions with the longer service regulars. I've two cavalry divisions, one of regulars and one of the local mounted rifles. I intend to maintain the locals after the war as a cadre and as a unifying national force that is basically local. Kind of like the National Guard back in the US.

I have six batteries of horse artillery and four of field artillery which ought to be more than adequate. We hope to lure the Trollians into an attack on our main line where we are particularly strong with artillery, then we will follow them and continue to hammer with the horse artillery.

My supplies are abundant. The railroad, as I mentioned, is a great advantage for moving large numbers of men and material. I've brevetted Major Hughes of the Railroad Regiment to Colonel and will request a suitable decoration for him when the campaign is concluded. I propose to commence operation Barn Cat tomorrow.

I have it on good authority that the cause of this disturbance is the egomania of one of our own citizens who dreamed of unrestrained power. First in Ellendale, and now here. My Father is determined to participate in his apprehension and destruction and I believe that this is all that is really keeping him alive. He speaks of your Father every day.

I love you and cannot wait to return to your embrace,

"It's just not right. Vy, it's just not right." I was feeling anxious and worried but I think it came across as rather whiney. Didn't matter though, because Vy knew the truth of it and would never tell in any event.

Vyvyan was dressing me in the undress blues of a Colonel of the Guards Hussars. I was colonel-in-chief of this regiment, so it was perfectly proper. Plus it included jodhpurs and riding boots so I was correctly attired if I wanted to ride Kameyn later.

I breakfasted alone and wouldn't have eaten much if it hadn't been for Aethnen 'a-heming' and 'tutting' and commenting quietly about "needed nourishment" and such. I missed breakfasting with Colin and Humphrey and my liegemen and Lawrence and everyone else who frequented my breakfast table.

I went down to the communications center that had been established at the palace to see what was new. There was one cable addressed to the Governor General for War with a copy to me. It said what Colin's letter had already said, he was moving against the Trolls.

I went to the stable to visit with Kameyn. I was immediately annoyed to remember that Elowin was now at the front with the Army but I was stuck here. I went riding with Kameyn for two hours. When we returned to the stable, Terence Cyffylog who was now Kameyn's acting groom was not present and waiting so I shouted and stormed at him for a bit once I found him and then started for the palace. I got about fifty yards before I started feeling guilty; at a hundred yards, I turned around and returned to apologize to him. Later, I sent Desmond down with a sovereign for a tip.

Cameron appeared with the usual snap flash. It has begun, he said and vanished again.

I went on to the communications room and sat, or paced, and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

With a snap flash Wilde appeared.

Your Majesty, Governor General. The Earl Martial and General Spurgeon send their respects and beg to report a complete and total victory. The Ice Trolls have surrendered, and surrendered their leader, who had fled from Ellendale years ago after his plots were discovered. I have a preliminary oral report for you.

"Please begin, we are more than ready," I said quietly.

After a thorough reconnaissance conducted by the familiars, now able to move quickly and freely thanks to the work of Earth Magister Ashmore (to be decorated); General Spurgeon positioned the Mounted Rifle Division close to the main concentration of the Trollian Army. They were instructed to engage the enemy in such a manner as to lure them into pursuit with a series of feints and bungled attacks and the general appearance of ineptitude. The Trollians moved out of their positions in pursuit of the Rifles who played the role of disorganized confusion brilliantly. Brigadier Redvers (to be decorated) kept his division in hand at all times as he retreated steadily to the low ridge on the reverse slope of which the two divisions of Regulars with artillery were arrayed and waiting.

To the north and west of the original Trollian position, the 3rd Division of Regulars and the 1st Brigade of Cavalry had moved into position without the Trollians being aware of them.

To the north and east of the original Trollian position, the 4th Division of Regulars and the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of Cavalry had moved into position. This movement was detected by the Trollians, but Colonel Scott (to be decorated) commanding the 3rd Brigade, screened the maneuver brilliantly, led the Trollians away from the position, disengaged from the Trollians and returned to his planned position in an exemplary manner.

The Mounted Rifles retired over the crest of the hill, through the formations on the reverse side, and reorganized to the rear of General Spurgeon as a ready reserve.

The Trollians came rolling over the hill in hot pursuit of the rifles where they were met with continuous volleys of musketry and massed artillery fire. Their advance was stopped in its tracks. The 1st and 2nd Divisions then advanced steadily maintaining their fire, keeping the Trollians closely engaged. They were supported by horse artillery.

The familiars were extremely important to the execution of this rather complex plan that spread over a number of miles with none of the formations within line of sight of the others. Beatrice on the left flank, and Wilde on the right flank responded to Surus' orders and the jaws of the trap began to swing shut.

It was subsequently determined that about 80% of the entire Trollian Army was now enveloped by the Armies of Ellendale. The Trollians fought hard, a few small units managed to escape through gaps in the Elven line as the formations moved into their final positions. Completely surrounded, as the field artillery began a bombardment, the Trollians sent a herald through the lines and asked for a truce.

General Spurgeon has granted a truce with the Trollians fixed in their current position. They have no hope of supply or reinforcement.

General Spurgeon requests instructions as to the terms of surrender that he should require. He suggests:

  1. The Trollian Army must surrender all small arms and artillery, but swords may be retained by those authorized to carry them.<
  2. The Trollian Army may retain all flags and banners and will be permitted to retire with honor.<
  3. The Trollian People must surrender the person of their leader known as the Druchay.<
  4. The Trollian People shall recognize the suzerainty of His Majesty Justin III ap Henry VII Indomitable.

I am to await your reply.

Wilde bowed to us.

I immediately dispatched messengers to have the Governors General assemble in the library of the palace. When all were assembled, Wilde repeated his report and we began a discussion of the surrender terms. It was agreed that we should be as merciful as possible to the Trollians as a people. It was decided to add a fifth article to require further Trollian participation in discussions with respect to specific issues such as trade, borders, and such other matters as may develop.

Wilde went on his way in the usual manner.

I called for Cameron and announced that I was now going to the front as the war was over.

GSM Aberhonddu had equipped me with a sword and would be accompanying me; Vyvyan would also be coming and he had organized my luggage so swiftly I suspect he had it already prepared; then Ralph Cyffylog drove up in my lovely red Revere i , and before I could say anything, the car was loaded and all were aboard. Bowing to the pre-ordained, I got in. Cameron snap flashed us away.

And set us down right in front of the headquarters tents. As it happened, Lawrence was just exiting the tent and came to the conclusion that our arrival was just what he had planned.

"Come along Your Justin, I was just going to the hospital to bestow the Lionhearts on the wounded. Your arrival is a godsend and will make their day. You're awesome, you are." I was whisked away.

The emotional impact of the first ward was staggering. These were Soldiers of the King; they had been wounded in the service of their King, and: I was that King. That I should be the symbol to inspire such sacrifice and devotion was almost more than I could endure. I was not in the least ashamed of the occasional tear on my cheek.

In a very real sense, I never emerged from the hospital. The enormity of the sacrifice that had been done in my name was now real and tangible. It would be a part of me for the rest of my life. Yes, the cause was just. But it was still done in my name.

But I did, in a very physical sense, emerge from the hospital. Kameyn was waiting with Terence Cyffylog holding him proudly and standing to attention. The Revere was just behind with Ralph and Harry in the front seat, Vyvyan and GSM Aberhonddu in the back seat. There was now a flag with the Royal Arms on the front of the car. I sensed the fine hand of the GSM. What ensued was very proper.

The soldiers in the immediate vicinity came to attention and saluted. From further back I heard the first cheers. I rode slowly up the camp street to cheers and salutes from every soldier that I could see. I wondered if I would ever know how to comprehend this show of approval. As I approached the entrance to Army headquarters, a greater degree of order became apparent. There was a cordon of soldiers holding the cheering throng back. Colin, Cameron, and a number of other officers were waiting for me. Somehow, Terence had managed to get ahead of the procession and was waiting to hold Kameyn so I could dismount. When I did, I moved into Colin's arms, we embraced. We kissed. The Army cheered loudly.

That night we had dinner with the Division Commanders. There were some somber moments when losses were discussed, but there was also a feeling of relief. A feeling of pride in a necessary job that had been very well done.

Later, after all had gone, Colin looked at me sweetly, "My Love, now you know, don't you? You have trodden the Forever Fields."

I wept in his arms.

i The Revere is one of the more obscure marques of the early years of automobiles, but an excellent machine none the less. Jay Leno has a lovely one in his collection which is the inspiration for this car.

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