The strange weather we're having is making it difficult to remember it's only January. Usually this time of year we're buried under snow or it's too cold to go outside to be in the snow, but the past weeks have been near or above zero Celsius during the day – with sun shining – and only really dropping into freezing temperatures at night.
I keep wanting to start plants lol.
Then again, I guess it's never really too early to start plants. I'm hoping to get a few big enough to survive the transplant to the garden (which is something I haven't successfully managed on the majority of seeds I start indoors). I don't have much of a green thumb. Flip side, starter plants will be in abundance from family and garden centers in a couple of months to save our gardens from wide patches of barren soil.
20. Quick Escapes
The contraption that they quickly pieced together and anchored to a sled large enough for all of them didn’t have much in common with a ship outside of possessing a mast and sail, but Justin reasoned that should be enough. Tam tied the spare parts Justin wanted to bring onto the sled as John eyed up the conglomeration critically.
“I don’t think fifteen minutes –”
“It’ll get us down to bare grass before nightfall using this wind,” Justin interrupted.
“Or fall apart the moment a gust hits the doubled over tarp you want to pretend is a sail,” John countered.
“Or that,” Justin agreed.
John was about to keep arguing, but was interrupted before he had a chance to speak by the boom! of large mining charges. Justin walked the few strides needed to see into the bottom of the pit. The shape that he knew was Tor had been kneeling in the middle of a ring of other black shapes for the past five minutes. He’d kept them chasing him around the bottom of the mine for nearly ten minutes and then simply turned to them and surrendered. Probably only because he’d gotten tired. Now he was being pulled up to his feet (that was Jin pulling him up, Justin knew it) and they were all running for the nearest road up as the first rush of falling stone and river began its descent.
The guards who had been marching many recaptured slaves down to the cages that were still secure simply stopped, spun and – leaving the slaves – turned to run back up the slope as more of the canal fractured and crashed down the wall to the bottom of the mine. The abandoned slaves quickly broke open the last cages and then all followed, their small victories rekindled as they raced back up to the edge of the pit with hopes this time of freedom beyond the ridge.
“That’s going to be a very big lake,” Tam stated from beside Justin’s elbow.
“Good thing we have a boat,” Justin replied.
They climbed onto the sled and wrapped into blankets, and then tied themselves and their packs to the makeshift mast. John swallowed his arguments, not having any better ideas, and followed after a moment. Justin handed him a tie rope that John knotted around his ankle in the Islander fashion.
“Please don’t fall apart,” John whispered as nearby yelling informed them they’d just been found by a guard patrol rounding up escapees.
John took the steering and sail lines to hand and released the crowbar so it dropped to click into place at the bottom of the mast. The tarp snapped taut and the sled started creeping forward, gaining speed as they tilted down toward the distant farmlands. A few guards on skis started after them, initially getting close, but then a heavier gust hit and the sled accelerated away down the slope.
Tor bent double and rested his hands on his knees to catch his breath. The scouts around him, except for Jin, were all in various poses of stiffly posturing that they weren’t as winded as he was after the run out of the mine. He huffed out a laugh and nodded at the freshly made waterfall that was already starting to pool at the bottom of the mine in spite of still pouring into the tunnels. It would take days to fill the mine and pit completely and re-channel back into the low-lying bed down the mountain and away from the mine.
“What are you laughing at, deserter?” one of the scouts he didn’t recognize the voice of spit the question. Must be new, Tor thought. He only shook his head, keeping his thoughts to himself. Jin slapped his friend on the back of the head.
“Ouch,” Tor stated as he straightened up, his tone exaggeratingly hurt.
“You knew someone was going to blow the canal,” Jin accused, stabbing a finger into Tor’s chest. “You went down there knowing this was going to happen!” He swept an arm wide to encompass the pit and waterfall. “You led us down there knowing this was going to happen!” Another large section of the canal crashed to the bottom of the mine, adding emphasis to Jin’s furious chastising.
“Of course,” Tor agreed easily. “Why else waste time leading you down there?”
The increasing flow of the waterfall triggered a landslide that tumbled the lowest cage into the pit. The scout who’d asked what Tor was laughing at punched him hard in the stomach.
“Ow,” Tor whined, doubled over around her fist but still wheezing out a chuckle after.
The horn of the advance infantry echoed in the pit and the first of the troops came into view, interrupting anything else that the rest of the scouts might do after learning that Tor had lured them into the river’s path.
“Stones and mortar,” Jin cursed quietly as he gripped Tor’s arm just above the elbow. “Let’s go,” he said out loud. The scouts formed into a circle around the pair and, as one, began jogging along the road that followed the top of the pit. Tor trotted beside his friend at the pace that Jin set. They passed through the advance infantry and over the bridge that now had a lovely view of the growing waterfall and emptying canal.
The main body of the army wasn’t far, and all of it was compressed into a marching line where more than the back half was already fighting the coming storm. Tor knew there were two thousand fighters: two hundred advance infantry, five hundred infantry, five hundred cavalry, six hundred pikers, one hundred engineers, and one hundred (approximately) of commanders, administrators, scouts, and the general’s honor guard. And now one prisoner, he added himself to the count. In the few remaining hours of weak winter daylight, the army would arrive at – and set their camp comfortably within and around – the town that serviced the mine.
At least, it had serviced the mine… Tor grinned at the thought that the town would be superfluous (or a nice lakefront, mountain holiday destination for the wealthy) by the end of a week. Too bad the town was above the mine and any new course of the river wouldn’t wipe it out.
He wondered if he would be camping with the army… or left in the pit.
They slogged through the snow to stand at the side of the road when the honor guard came into view. Tor didn’t bother with the effort of standing to attention or stiffly saluting. It wasn’t like he was a scout anymore. The general stopped his horse in front of Tor and Jin and acknowledged the respectfully saluting scouts.
Tor spread his hands wide and bowed gracefully. “Lord General,” he called above the din of clanking armor and hurried footsteps.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!